What is it that will set you up for success in 2019? Is it answering another email?

Is it connecting with a person “just to talk”?

Or is it increasing your mindpower to help your staff take more initiative and be more successful?

Here are five books that can show you the hidden leadership pieces you’re missing, to get the most out of your team, and the most out of an uncertain time.

Adaptive leadership

The Practice of Adaptive Leadership – Heifitz

Why is this book unexpected? Well, all of the examples in it are from for-profits. But hear me out! For profits often have the same leadership problems that we do. Why?

Leadership is a tricky beast! Adaptive Leadership talks about how to make change-despite flattery, stonewalling, deception, meetings that run hot with no one taking charge of the problem, meetings that run cold with no energy to solve the issues, and so much more.

Here’s just one small gem from this book. Sometimes, our nonprofits take on problems so big they can never be solved. (Like homelessness for an entire city.) When we do this, by taking on a problem that is too big, we are giving ourselves permission to fail. Because there are too many moving pieces to the problem that are out of our control. So failure is inevitable. And it isn’t your fault! Because the problem is too big.

After you read this book, you’ll have a better understanding of how to take on smaller, solvable problems, how to run a better meeting where people get motivated to take action on the issues, and finally, how to dissect what is really going on- when you have felt stuck for years.

go put your strengths to work marcus buckingham

Go Put Your Strengths to Work- Buckingham

Why is this unexpected? Well, it’s not a NONPROFIT HR or team management book. And that’s a good thing! Everyone has different strengths they bring to the table. You can find yours AND find your colleague’s. Once you do that, you’ll start to understand where people are coming from, and feel more confident in your team!

Your team is a problem. Or is it? This book will help you solve the puzzle of the people on your team, and get them excited to come to work with you.

Here’s an example of the power of this book. I was working with an executive director last year who seemed to think her team was a huge problem. We had them take the strengthsfinder test from Gallup, and then we took another look at their duties, and what their strengths were. We realized her program director whose strength was input needed data and research to know the value of a new way of doing things. We realized her events director who had the strength of relating, needed a softer touch and more chit-chat before getting her marching orders in her weekly meetings with her strategic-strength boss. After this they raised more money with their event, they had more productive donor meetings thanks to her program director, and she felt more confident as a leader, because she knew how to connect with different kinds of people in her office, and manage them with an understanding of their unique motivations. Seriously, whether you’re a CEO or VP or even Development Director, this can help you do so much more with your teams!

In The Company of Women – Heim + Murphy

Why is this an unexpected addition? Because we rarely talk about how 80% of our sector is female or woman-identified. And how the sector’s feminization leads to us getting paid less- but also how women screw each other over in this race to the bottom. Why don’t we talk about this? We seem to think that because we’re working “for the greater good” that we’re above petty rivalries and jealousy. Au contraire my friend. Some of the worst sexism and workplace bullying I’ve seen was at a 100% female domestic violence nonprofit.

Have you ever… been promoted and then felt OH GEEZ this is not what I bargained for?

Have you ever worked under a female boss who did abuse her power?

What about if you were the boss and people were jealous of your power?

We have some messed up ideas about women and leadership inside our heads, based on what we learned from our culture. Because we can have negative views about women who wield power directly, we often shy away from leading “like men.” This makes women who seek power have to use skills to make it seem like they are reaching consensus on issues with everyone. This book helps you get clear on what tactics to use whether you’re a woman stepping into leadership, have led for awhile, or simply want to deal with a tricky boss.

My Voice Will Go With You – Erickson + Rosen

You never saw THIS book coming! Why is it a book that can transform you, and your nonprofit? Because it deals with transforming stories that work in therapy. If you have struggled with how to communicate what you want, and then actually GET what you want, this book can help you.

Have you ever told someone what you want, over and over again, to have the same bad results? What can you do when the direct approach isn’t working?

The answer is- hook into their hidden motivations. You don’t have to believe in hypnosis or practice it to tell a story that changes people’s minds, and helps their motivation. This book has many examples of what happens when you use reverse psychology on people. Frankly I found it mindblowing. Imagine what you could do… when you use this book on your staff. Or your donors!


Slideology – Duarte

Let’s break it down for a minute. WHY this book? Because no matter how much you focus on being a better communicator, a better leader, you still have a problem.

It’s called unreadable materials.

That includes your presentations that you do at the Rotary, the annual report you slapped together with no real software, that travesty of a brochure you are still using from 3 years ago, I could go on.

Why would anyone want to give to you, if you make your materials impossible to read? That’s where this book comes in. Nancy Duarte takes you through the principles of good design, and you can use them everywhere. On your website. In your presentations. In your newsletter. Even in your annual report or brochure. And it will help donors feel like you are professional, organized, and deserving of their money. Check out this book, and prepare to revolutionize your whole look!

If you liked these suggestions, try checking out the Entrepreneurial Nonprofit!

We have a free webinar on October 24th and a 6 week cohort beginning October 30th, which will help you build your reserves and thrive in 2019!