Filling Gaps in Non-profit Leadership


William F. Meehan III and Kim Starkey Jonker, Authors of the recently released book 'Engine of Impact', conducted a survey in 2017 in conjunction with Stanford Social Innovation Review, the Stanford Centre on Philanthropy and Civil Society, the Centre on Social Innovation at Stanford Graduate School of Business, GuideStar, and BoardSource involving over 3,000 stakeholders in the not for profit sector in the United States. 

The survey identified that not for profit organisations are generally struggling across the seven dimensions of what Meehan and Jonker call 'strategic leadership' (i.e. Mission, strategy, impact evaluation, insight and courage, organisation and talent, funding, and board governance). 

Meehan and Jonker, drawing upon their extensive sector experience, argue that Boards must initiate and drive the capability shift required to transform their organisations, placing greatest onus on governance, funding and impact evaluation. 

Meehan and Jonker highlight 'what' sector leaders need to do in order to pursue excellence in the cataclysmic world of public services. However, they fall short on providing the practical steps ('the how') that Boards and Executives must follow to develop the spectrum of strategic leadership capabilities identified as essential to achieving organisational excellence (incrementally) over time.

Meehan and Jonker's 'strategic leadership' elements inform the development of future state capability frameworks designed to support and enable reforms, as we have seen in our own Region e.g. NDIS Capability Framework.

However the seven elements still need to be graduated in a way that reflects the growth and maturity of the sector as well as the different organizations that constitute it all united by their goal to provide impactful services to the community.

We would also argue that all capability frameworks in the public services sector generally need to be further augmented through the overlay of behavioural qualities and attributes that make the sector and players in it unique.

Finally, we would recommend that the valuable advice provided by Meehan and Jonker in their 2017 survey report and recent book release, be simplified and broken down into 'bite sizes' that Boards and executives can digest and work through progressively, according to their stage of development and with the aid of live case studies; action learning, 100 day planning, coaching and mentoring as is our approach at the Australasian Transformation Academy.