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The Loneliness of Leadership

by Tamela Spicer, Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy

Being an executive director can be a lonely job. It’s an ongoing balance of leading and following. There are times when a leader needs to guide or teach their board of directors or staff how to be more effective, while at other times the executive director is following the leadership and direction of their board, whether it’s implementing a strategic framework or navigating the organization toward annual goals. There are staff and volunteers to lead, donors to develop, and a variety of community stakeholder relationships to navigate.

Yet leading a nonprofit also has great rewards. Mission-driven organizations provide deep job satisfaction and the ability for community impact. It’s a complex role — one that needs the ongoing learning and support that executive coaching can provide.

Coaching is a creative, thought-provoking partnership between the coach, the executive, and in our case, the cohort. At the Johnson Center, our coaching philosophy is a cross between probative discovery and strategic advising. Designed to build on both the personal and organizational strengths of participants, executive coaching enables nonprofit leaders to work through challenges and develop skills.

“[Executive coaching] provided a safe place for me to come and talk about challenges in our organization — to talk with my colleagues and get their feedback, as well as the expertise of the Johnson Center. It was a great experience.”

– Colleen Davis, Executive Director of Alternatives in Motion

Executive coaching in the context of a peer group has the added benefit of providing support that can last far beyond the coaching experience. The coaching group provides a unique perspective that can help build leadership skills, deepen empathy, and increase productivity.

“This coaching group provided camaraderie, support, and empirical, hands on guidance in how to better lead your organization. I highly recommend it.”

– Mary Dailey Brown, President/CEO of SowHope

Join the eight-week journey beginning February 6, 2019. The coaching group will meet every Wednesday morning from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Space is limited — sign up today!

Tamela Spicer joined Shelley Irwin on the WGVU Morning Show in August 2018 to discuss the Johnson Center’s executive coaching program. Special guest guest Colleen Davis, executive director at Alternatives in Motion, shared her personal experience in the program. Listen here.

Photo: Tamela SpicerTamela Spicer, M.A.is the program manager for nonprofit services at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. She works primarily with faith-based clients, and specializes in organizational structure, fund development, and strategic planning. Learn more about Tamela.


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