Saturday, March 23, 2013

How to Get Leadership Skills While Doing Good

Let’s face it: When you’re the head of a small business, you want to develop your leadership skills and, if you are like most entrepreneurs, contribute to your community. What if you could do good and beef up your leadership skills at the same time?

As a business owner, you have more than money to contribute. Being on the board of a nonprofit is great way to give back. It is also a great way to improve your leadership skills.

Many big companies recognize that being on nonprofit boards builds “soft” leadership skills. They pay for rising stars in their companies to go through nonprofit board training and encourage nonprofit board service, according to Nicole T. Sebastian, deputy executive director of  VCG Governance Matters, which places people on nonprofit boards.

Founders of small to mid-sized companies also recognize the importance of board service as way to improve their leadership skills. Many successful entrepreneurs — some pretty big players — credit their success to integrating nonprofit work into their business plan.

Decision-making on a nonprofit board requires building consensus, a very different skill from influencing someone who reports to you. Learning how to work within a group of equals is particularly useful when the time comes for your small business to form alliances and partnership.

In your role as a business leader, you go with your strength and delegate others to take over in your weak areas. On a nonprofit board, you can join a committee outside your comfort zone, one that doesn’t draw on your core expertise but can expand your skills and knowledge.

Barbara Nagel is a partner at Perlman + Perlman, a law firm that specializes in working with nonprofits and social enterprises. She has been on several nonprofit boards and is now on the boards of Arts Engine, Grove With Me, and the Alpern Family Foundation.

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