Who knew not-for-profit leadership during a pandemic would have positive outcomes. This past month has been fast-paced and unpredictable for leaders around the world. For not-for-profit organizations there are multiple and often competing priorities including, our ability to provide services to clients in a manner that protects their health, protecting staff and volunteer health and safety, managing expectations from funders, and keeping abreast of the constant changes in order to meet Government directives as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For many not-for-profit leaders it has provided us with the unique opportunity to re-engage stakeholders and communities using the latest technology. For me, it has been a steep learning curve. I am not a regular user of social media or virtual tools, so I had to quickly learn how to navigate and connect in the virtual world. By adopting a ‘learning by doing approach’, my skills at uploading, downloading, merging, joining, muting, and plain old navigation improved tenfold in the span of just one week! My language and knowledge about shared drives and documents, Google Meet (Hangouts), Chats, Zoom, Facetime, Teams, Skype, Live Stream and more, are at a higher level than I ever thought possible. My adult brain appreciates the learning opportunity. 

Learning to chair, facilitate, and lead conference calls and virtual meetings, has challenged my usual approach. Some things have become MORE critical to ensure a successful meeting; clear and concise agendas, ensuring attendees have access to any pre-reading or required materials, and clarity around meeting purpose. Facilitating meaningful discussion has also required more creativity, and a more direct approach to leadership. Expanding on my new found technological skills has taught me the importance of directing conversation, inviting people to speak in an organized manner, and having the agenda distributed well in advance. All of these steps work to engage attendees, and provide opportunities for everyone to contribute.  

I am fortunate to work with other extraordinary leaders and colleagues who have shared their learning experiences as well. Honing my team meeting skills in a virtual world has provided a number of significant benefits; increased technological efficiency of course, but it also includes increased awareness, and improved focus. Each is an important skill that will help me support the transition to the ‘new normal’ when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

The importance of personal leadership during this time of uncertainty has been a very powerful learning experience for me. Reflecting on what it means to be a community leader during this global pandemic, I have realized that showing up to work in a positive state of mind has benefits not only for me, but for the team, and my family. I pride myself on being an intentional leader. I know our team relies on me to produce a well thought out plan that can help bring us all through this crisis. To accomplish this task I know I must be calm, honest, and present. To be an effective leader I must be informed, genuine, and flexible in order to respond to new information and address changes as they arise.

So what are the benefits for me personally? For me, I have learned to quickly address and process my own anxieties and concerns around COVID-19 so I can respond to the needs of others.  As an intentional leader I am well practiced in the art of listening and processing information, which means I am able to respond calmly and thoughtfully to all manner of questions and concerns. I have noticed I am able to be truly present, centered, and calm because I have enough up-to-the-minute information that I can comfortably make sound decisions. I am able to share what I know because it comes from a place of wisdom, not fear or ignorance. Ultimately, I am able to help my colleagues process their worries and concerns. 

These are unprecedented times, like nothing I have experienced before, yet this experience has helped me understand one very important lesson, ‘how I am as a leader is how I am with everyone’. And for this, I am truly grateful.  

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