Excerpt, by Dr. Paloma Raggo, from Chapter 15 of the book “Intersections and Innovations: Change for Canada’s Voluntary and Nonprofit Sector,” which is edited by Susan Phillips and Bob Wyatt and published as a free e-book by the Muttart Foundation. Click here to read an interview with Dr. Raggo.

Chapter 15: Leadership in the Charitable Sector: A Canadian Approach?

By Paloma Raggo

Read the interview with Dr. Paloma Raggo about her Chapter 15 and issues in the nonprofit sector: www.carleton.ca/panl/2022/q-and-a-with-paloma-raggo

What is leadership? We often have an intuitive understanding of the concept, but in practice leadership can mean different things to different people. There is a powerful normative assumption that “leadership” in the charitable sector is related to notions of selflessness, inspiration, ethical behaviour, and benevolence. However, leadership is more complex than good intentions and ethics. While meaning well, leaders even in the charitable sector can engage in incredibly destructive behaviours. By reducing leadership merely to specific qualities, skills, or traits that should be emulated, we limit our understanding of what leadership is and where it can emerge. There is no consensus among scholars, practitioners, consultants, and volunteers in the sector on a universal definition. Diversity of experiences, people, best practices, challenges, and solutions make the charitable sector a fascinating incubator for the study of leadership.

While it is tempting, and would be conceptually easier, to develop a coherent and unified approach to describe the charitable sector’s leadership, the leadership literature and practices are diverse and, on occasion, even contradictory. No single leadership approach can be effective in all circumstances. Indeed, we should be wary of pre-made “leadership recipes” that create the illusion that it is possible to morph into a particular type of leader at any given time if someone simply follows carefully prescribed instructions. This chapter’s main lesson is a simple one: people, context, and organizations matter in shaping what leadership is and who leaders are. This lesson is particularly relevant for Canadian leaders who must navigate their organizations through crises and difficult times while continually adapting to a changing environment. Although there is no single approach to leadership, purposefully embracing a diversity of views and people makes organizations more effective in achieving a common goal with their followers, which ultimately is the fundamental goal of leaders. Canadian leaders seem particularly attuned to the ethics and values at the heart of many decisions that can push an organization’s mission forward.

This chapter discusses leadership using a theoretical and an applied approach. On the theoretical side, the chapter maps many of the relevant leadership theories applicable to the charitable sector…

Paloma Raggo is an assistant professor in Carleton University’s MPNL program and an Editor with PANL Perspectives. She researches leadership and nonprofit governance, global philanthropy, and research methods. Raggo is on Twitter and LinkedIn. Banner Photo is courtesy of Dimitar Donovski.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022 in
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