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Why Resilience is Important for Nonprofit Leaders

Why-resilience-is-important-for-nonprofit-leadersThe nonprofit sector is burdened with sudden economic, political, social and technological changes. Nonprofit leaders have to find a way to adapt to these sudden changes. Sticking their heads in the sand is not an option. They need to be resilient.

Resilience is important because there are limitless challenges, setbacks, and obstacles that can leave nonprofit leaders feeling overwhelmed. For this reason, burnouts are commonplace in the charity world.

Well-known nonprofit expert and author, Beth Kanter says burnouts are like boiling a frog gradually. She defines a burnout as the state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion that happens when leaders feel overwhelmed by managing too many demands using too little resources.

She writes: “If a frog is dropped into cold water in a saucepan and brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. It is a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that arise gradually.”

 In her book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit, she describes this burnout as a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion that occurs when leaders feel overwhelmed by too many demands, too few resources, and too little recovery time.  

She reveals that nonprofit leaders often don’t realize the symptoms before it is too late. However,  she questions whether the frog metaphor represents resilience accurately as scientists have since proven that, a submerged frog gradually heated will jump out.

Tweet this: Beth Kanter says burnouts are like boiling a frog gradually.

What is resilience?

Psychology Today defines resilience as the ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.

Rising from the ashes is not as easy as it sounds. When the going gets too tough some leaders would abandon their charity mission and switch to profit careers. To those of you who are determined to stay the course but find it hard to rise from the ashes, consider cultivating some resilience. Let me tell you why:

Resilient leaders can manage stress well

A study by meQuilibrium proves that resilient leaders are perceived more positively by their staff members. When matching up the Perceived Stress Score of the resilient people against those who are not, resilient people experienced 46 percent less stress that those with low resilience.

Resilient leaders are great problem solvers

Where there’s a problem they can express their concerns and opinions freely. They know how difficult it is to get to the root of the matter in a timely manner.

In her book, Maxine Dalton explains how resilient leaders are great problem solvers because:

  • They take Action: Action-oriented individuals approach a new task through trial and error versus research or a how-to book or class
  • Resilient leaders think solutions through: Reflect on past experiences, imagining likely outcomes or scenarios of different decisions
  • They can control their fears: Develop personal strategies for managing fear or discomfort that arises from new or unfamiliar situations. What would you choose if you weren’t afraid? (Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson)

Resilient leaders are adaptable

Resilience helps leaders to be adaptable to technological trends. When trouble hits, they don’t stress because they know there is a solution for it. For each charity function there is a tailor-made solution:

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