A little over six weeks ago, I made a radical decision. I woke up to an urgent phone message from one of my nonprofit consulting clients, saying that her new director had quit with no warning and no reason given. Her board of directors wanted me to take the position. They knew and trusted me after having worked with me for the past two years. They also knew that I was finishing up a major contract with another non-profit organization. I called back and we came to an arrangement. I would work for their animal sanctuary three days a week so that I could continue to run my women's group on the other days.
After having spent five years in nonprofit management and five years as a nonprofit consultant, I had never actually directed an organization. I never wanted the responsibility. I preferred consulting. The challenge I am resented with is taking an extremely tired, all volunteer organization and changing it into a solid, professionally run nonprofit with a strong base of support. What I'm now realizing is that it's a lot easier advising people on how to do things than it is to actually step up and take the responsibility for making things happen. it's always easier in the cheap seats isn't it?
But, over the past year, I have really started to put myself out there. I joined Toastmasters, the public speaking group. And I started Over 40, Fearless and Free - my women's group, which has grown to over 3,000 women. One of the biggest lessons I'm learning about being a leader is that I truly cannot do it alone. I guess I always thought that there was something special or extraordinary about leaders. But, what I'm learning is that each person in the organization contributes such an important part and a good leader just keeps them focused on the big picture.
As I begin to hire staff (all part-timers), I appreciate each and every person, volunteer or professional. I see my role as half visionary and half cheerleader. I have to continuously share the vision and explain why certain things are important. And as the organization goes through growing pains and takes a leap of faith that the base of support that has been built up over 12 years, will support them, I continually strive to provide a calming influence.
As for me, it has been more stressful than I anticipated, but also more rewarding. I've experienced insomnia several times and really wanted to quit at least once a week, as I work through my own issues regarding dealing with people. But, overall I feel proud of myself for taking on this challenge and stepping up to a leadership position.