The Parallels Between Top Companies and Best Nonprofit Boards

In today’s challenging environment, the nonprofit boards that will lead their organizations most effectively are the boards that identify, recruit, and develop outstanding leaders and board members who have the experience, expertise, and diversity of perspectives and backgrounds to envision the organization’s greater potential and to achieve financial and strategic success. My readers will be familiar with my blogposts and book on this topic.

It should not be surprising to see that, according to new research, top global and North American companies also consider leadership development–for senior management–“more important than ever before” given the economic challenges of the past 18-24 months and the cost pressures facing companies. According to Top Companies for Leaders Study 2009, conducted by Hewitt Associates, Fortune, and The RBL Group, “Organizations that excel at leader-building gain an edge over their competition because they enjoy a surplus of engaged leadership talent and a strong leadership brand, even in the most challenging times.”

Interestingly, key attributes of Top Companies, shown below as stated in the study, are entirely consistent with my view of best practices in nonprofit board development:

  1. Tie leadership selection strategies directly to leadership goals and business strategy
  2. Set clear expectations for leaders with a great deal of transparency
  3. Expect leaders to demonstrate the company’s missions and values
  4. Develop the next generation of leaders needed to drive and sustain the organization
  5. Develop a robust pipeline of leaders to drive future success (leadership succession planning)
  6. Build teams mixed in ethnicity, gender, and age; they outperform companies whose management teams are homogenous
  7. Provide a formal onboarding process for new leaders

The economic crisis was a call to action. Current financial challenges facing companies and nonprofits present opportunities for a new generation of leaders, from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, to lead us forward.