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Recognizing leadership: Because we're worth it

By Kelly Rowan
Follow me on Twitter: @kellykay30

Over brunch with some wonderful YNPN members* recently, we had a lively discussion about the importance of taking the time to recognize and celebrate the excellent work and leadership of our peers. This is one of the things I’ve been trying to be more mindful of in all areas of my life.

We could all benefit from being more thoughtful and intentional in taking the time to do this – in ways big and small. We can put a little more effort in hand-written thank you notes, serve as references and write letters of recommendation for our colleagues when they are poised for their next stride forward, or simply show genuine interest in work that is outside of what we usually immerse ourselves in.

Another opportunity for recognizing leadership is right around the corner: nominations for the Nonprofit Leadership Awards are due on May 3rd. While the time and energy required to bring this kind of acknowledgment to our peers can seem daunting, the entire process is worth the investment. Here’s why:

1. Highlight Excellent Work 

Shining a bright light on the stellar work of young leaders broadens visibility and knowledge of their cause. We all get to learn from the challenges they faced, what they learned  along the way, and how they achieved success. We may find nuggets we can apply in our own work, or we may just learn something about an issue that we aren’t familiar with.

2. Recognize, Thank, and Celebrate our Peers

Many of us work and volunteer in the nonprofit sector because we want to make the world a better place. In the everyday busy-ness, politics, ups and downs, and breakneck pace of life, it’s easy to brush past and overlook the successes that are critical to moving us forward. That’s exhausting and can lead to a number of maladies (or dreaded total burnout) that interfere with our true potential for effectiveness. Even for us humble Minnesotans, pausing to lift each other up and--yes!--hear some praise for our accomplishments is healthy and brings perspective to our work.

3. Dig Beyond the Surface

While we know the titles and organizations of many in our network, do we really know what our peers’ day-to-day work looks like? Or what their bigger picture goals are in moving the needle for their cause? I’ve been blown away by what I’ve learned about the work and commitment of the person I am nominating for this award. (It’s Kat Kempe if you’re wondering –check out the amazing community building work she’s doing around early learning with Think Small). As we rush through our daily lives, striving for efficiency and cramming as much working, reading, exercising, playing, etc. as possible into each day, we often miss so many opportunities to truly connect with each other and invest in the quality of life that sustains and supports us in achieving the fulfillment we pursue.

4. Influence the Landscape for Young Nonprofit Professionals

I am involved with YNPN because of our unique role in supporting professional development--both for individuals working in nonprofits and for the collective influence we can have in the sector. As a community, it’s important for us to make sure that we are at the table, supporting and encouraging each other, and raising each other up by recognizing really excellent work. While we are fortunate to have so many experienced role models who can help shape our journeys, we also need to be our own role models. This way, we can flex our leadership muscles throughout our career.

So:  Let’s get to it. Less than a week remains to pull together nominations for the Nonprofit Leadership Awards; the deadline is May 3. What’s holding you back?

What are some other ways we can invest in each other and recognize the important strides we make in our communities?

*Thanks to Steph JacobsKat KempeRinal Ray, and Ashley Schweitzer for providing inspiration and thoughtful contributions to the content of this post.

photo credit. Used with permission of Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

Tags: Leadership

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