Perhaps you know: As manager in a company and in your spare time, for example as a member of the board, you run an association. We have illustrated some of the special features of leadership in non-profit organisations in pictures.

Leadership is our core topic at flow consulting – in coaching and background consulting, in seminars, in workshops. We work for both, profit and non-profit organizations (NPO), this time we examine the topic of leadership with the ‘NPO glasses’.

Organizational culture and self-image in non-profit organisations have different challenges. We show – in pictures – a few peculiarities managers in NPOs are confronted with and we chart possible approaches.

Actors, motives, demands

Leadership means exerting influence and steering in a way aims are achieved together. Leading employees is legitimized by an employment contract. This is different in NPOs or so-called membership-organisations: The groups of actors and their interests are more complex even the leadership of these actors. Rainer Zech [1] describes three functional logics in membership organisations and regards them as three relatively autonomous subsystems:

  • Members follow their occupational qualification.
  • Volunteers tend to act in field of ‘hobby logic’, as they have only limited time resources available and may not have specialist training for their voluntary sector.
  • Full-time employees follow the organisation of their occupational qualification logic as employees.

There are 3 groups having different demands on the ‘management’ of the organisation. The leadership in non-profit organisations is therefore permanently challenged to consider motives and demands in their actions and to weigh them up.

Contradictions in NPO

Managers in NPOs are often challenged to deal with contradictions, for example:

– Democracy is staged, but not always lived
– Demand for professionalism versus concern for inhumanity
– Actors mix up roles
– Different interpretation of “rules”

If you’ve read this so far with interest and you had the feeling: “yes, exactly, I know that…” – then take a look at our illustrations as well. And do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or comments.

A picture story: Leadership in non-profit organizations

Best regards

Matthias Diederichs

picture and graphics: flow consulting