Posts filed under ‘Leadership’
Let the hand-wringing begin about unit coherence problems if men see women naked and tired (wait, I’m having a flashback to the delivery room). The real impact of the Pentagon’s decision to greenlight women in combat roles is giving female soldiers access to more than 200,000 jobs previously off limits. Along with promotion eligibility that used to be off the table.
This is not new territory. In the corporate world, women were shut out of boardrooms for most of the last century, and even now according to the Committee for Economic Development, women in the ranks of Fortune 500 boards number just 16%. (That’s the same percentage of women who are uniformed officers, by the way.) This lack of boardroom experience is often cited as the missing criterion for women seeking top corporate posts. Just like a lack of combat experience shuts many women out of top military posts. And top pay.
In the arts world, the story is the same. Few symphony orchestras have ever had a female conductor. With a few historic exceptions (Antonia Brico – Berlin Philharmonic, 1930; Nadia Boulanger – Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1938), Marin Alsop at the Baltimore Symphony is one of the only women conductors leading American orchestras today. And no woman has ever led the “Big Five,” which pay at the top of the scale (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago).
I’m hopeful that qualified and determined women can now get access to top-paying careers in the military. So more can join the ranks of Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, the first woman promoted to four-star general—waaaaaay back in 2008.
$3 Billion. That’s what the Obama and Romney campaigns have spent, combined. What else that money could have bought? Here are five things I think have more value than a year’s worth of campaign commercials.
A year’s worth of meals for 5.5 million needy American families. That’s using the cost-per-meal data for a family of four from the nonprofit Feeding America . According to the USDA, the top states with food insecurity for children—meaning highest percentage of households where kids don’t know where their next meal will come from—are: Mississippi (19.2%), Texas (18.5%), Arkansas (19.2%), Alabama (17.4%), Georgia (17.4%), Florida (16.2%) and North Carolina (17.1%). It’s too bad so many of these states are considered political “battleground” states, but not battlegrounds in the war on hunger.
Eradicate polio worldwide. With some funds left over for ongoing education and vaccinations, $3 billion should cover it. That’s using numbers from the 2011 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation white paper on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is currently underfunded despite their support, largely because of reductions in funding from G8 nations like ours who apparently spend the money on elections instead.
Provide clean drinking water for 150 million people. More than 1 in 8 people in the world don’t have access to safe drinking water, which then contributes to high rates of infant mortality, diseases, and conflicts over resources. According to the World Health Organization, for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return of between $3 and $34, so the world would get back $55.5 billion from this investment
Repair infrastructure–our inland waterways. We think of ourselves as a nation of roads, but American consumers actually depend on thousands of miles of inland and intra-coastal waterways to move approximately 630 million tons of cargo valued at more than $73 billion annually. (American Society for Civil Engineers, Infrastructure Report Card) . By 2020, 80% of our current locks in this system will be out of date and in need of repair at a cost of $50 million each. So we could get to work on 1/3 of them right now, at a savings of billions in undelivered or delayed cargo.
Toys for the kids. Okay, so you don’t want to invest in food, water or healthcare for the needy, or infrastructure repairs for the country. How about playing Saint Nick and distributing 120 million toys to kids who need them? At under $25 each, you could offer a Lego Ultimate Building Set, Syma Remote Controlled Helicopter, or Tiny Tikes basketball hoop for the little ones. Or Amazon or iTunes gift cards for the older set.
Mitt Romney’s now infamous comment at last night’s debate has opened a new line into our nation’s ongoing discussion about affirmative action. When he was Governor of Massachusetts, Romney says he had to reach outside the usual application process to ensure that men weren’t the only ones applying for his cabinet positions. Luckily, he was in a state ranked first among all 50 in higher education attainment, where more than 50% of the population hold at least a 2-year degree (Lumina Foundation, 2010). So with a little outreach, the Governor easily found plenty of qualified female applicants. If he’d been governor of Alabama, though, his task would have been much more difficult, since that state’s percentage of folks with any college is only 31%. And if he’d been leading a state with a large Hispanic population, that number would also be low. According to the 2010 Census, just 19 percent of Latinos between 25 and 64 years old had at least a two-year college degree. For whites, the figure is 43 percent.
One of the keys to our economic success as a nation has been ensuring that All Americans, including newer immigrants and women, get access to higher education. My own all-girls school was founded by a woman, Jesse Moon Holton, who was a leader in educating young women, and created the best school motto I’ve ever heard “I shall find a way or make one.” That motto reminds me daily of brave little MalalaYousafzai of Pakistan, who risked her life just to go to school. Thankfully we don’t live in a society where extremists mount school buses to shoot kids trying to get an education.
But we do put far too many obstacles in the way of people who want this path to economic inclusion. As a society, we should do everything possible—affirmative action in higher education, The Dream Act, funding early childhood education (and yes, a few bucks to Big Bird)–to ensure that every corporate CEO and government leader who wants to hire talent has available to her binders full of qualified and well-educated African-Americans, Hispanics and women of all ethnicities ready and able to succeed.
The Sullivan vs. Dragas battle at UVA is a classic case of nonprofit versus corporate leadership styles. UVA president Teresa Sullivan’s approach–getting to know the university’s key constituencies–is best suited to nonprofits, in which shouting “Follow Me!” rarely gets you more than a sore throat. But Helen Dragas, Chair of UVA’s Board of Visitors, is known for her no-nonsense business style. She expected the newly minted (18 months IS recent in NST–Nonprofit Standard Time) university president to “stop listening and lead.” (If you haven’t been following, the Chronicle of Higher Ed helpfully summarizes the battle here.) Particularly in a university setting, where you have power centers including tenured faculty who frankly don’t have to follow anyone thank you very much, as well as a constant stream of new students and important donors, Sullivan’s style of taking the time to “listen and learn” before launching major change initiatives will likely win the day.
This battle comes at an interesting time. As nonprofits have been moving steadily to adopt a “more corporate” model of governance, corporations have been embracing social sector models of getting things done. (And hey, after the Wall Street meltdown, my money is on the nonprofit sector so to speak.) In her recent letter to shareholders, Calvert Investments CEO Barbara Krumsiek (disclaimer–Barbara and I know one another through a nonprofit board) noted the increase of sustainability proposals at shareholder meetings, and the implementation by more than 400 business sector CEOs of the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles, which were adapted from Calvert’s own Women’s Principles in 2010. In their new white paper subtitled “Is Your Board Prepared?”, Ernst & Young point out that social and environmental issues accounted for 40% of shareholder proposals on corporate proxy ballots last year–up one-third from 2010.
That trend away from business models to social sector models is addressed by Jim Collins in his recent monograph “Good to Great in the Social Sectors,” a follow-up to his famed book on high-functioning businesses. In the new book he questions the implementation of business practices in the social sector, saying”we must reject the idea…thgat the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become ‘more like a business.'” In fact, the metrics for success in a mission-based operation are very different than those in the for-profit. Delivery on the mission is primary. Lowering cost-per-delivery, while essential to good accounting, is not a measurement of success. Neither is efficiency in certain areas. Sometimes nonprofits need to spend a lot of time listening to their “customers” in order to deliver better services, and this listening is often done by social workers or nurses or pastors–professional listeners, but not folks in a marketing setting. The way they may evolve a solution to a particular customer problem may not be the most cost-efficient delivery of service, but it might create the best outcomes in the community served.
The same can be said of effective nonprofit leadership styles. Someone who understands how to harness the different concentric circles of supporters–from staff to donors to volunteers (and students and faculty, in the case of an educational institution) are going to be more successful in moving a strategic plan forward to get the mission accomplished.
So my bet is on Sullivan. What about yours?
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Senior Associate Dean of the Yale School of Management, did a great piece in the Washington Post this weekend on Facebook’s challenges with a Founder/CEO. He points out that good governance practices often go out the window, and directors kow-tow to the mystical leader, when a founder is at the helm of a company. Public and private companies are not alone in having leadership challenges—or what I call “founder’s syndrome.”
Many nonprofits have also been created by visionary leaders, and have the same challenges Facebook may–like boards of directors who aren’t willing to stand up to the founder, or even at some point look for new leadership.
There are ways to avoid this dynamic.
A Diverse Board. Facebook’s board is all-male. Don’t make the same mistake. A diverse board, though, is not just gender or race diverse. It should be age-diverse and made up not only of donors, but of people from the communities the organization serves. It should also include several individuals from related institutions (perhaps in other states), who can lend relevant expertise.
Free-Thinking Leadership. Board leaders are often hand-picked by the Executive, so that they get along well together. This is great. But more important is leaders who can speak their mind to the Executive and be sure all ideas and options are on the table.
Financial Compliance. It’s not uncommon for nonprofits still being led by their founders to have some squishy numbers in the books. An Audit Committee—separate from the Finance Committee—should oversee an annual audit process that follows current accounting standards. Independent Sector offers a checklist for accountability that includes these standards.
Mission-Driven Decisionmaking. At the end of the day, every board and leadership decision should meet this simple litmus test “Does this further our mission?” It sounds easy, but sometimes Founder-led organizations can get sidetracked with pet projects of the founder, or conversely, projects the founder doesn’t find particularly interesting but need to be done to move the mission forward.
Succession Planning. Every business owner needs to do it. So do nonprofit organization founders. It’s a conversation that needs to be had with the board, with real plans and timelines drawn up on paper so everyone knows what role the founder will play and how the organization will continue to succeed after he or she retires. Consider planning for an Interim Executive for 18 months after the founder leaves. No one can match the zeal and history of the founder, and a leader who is experienced in helping organizations make transitions can be just the right person to bridge to your next visionary.