“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” – Max Depree

As a nonprofit or social enterprise leader, you have a lot of responsibilities. One is to raise funds. Set the vision. Ensure great, not just good, hiring takes place. Win clients. Establish superior client service. And keep the focus.

Isn’t that enough?

Not so, says leadership expert Max DePree. While traditionally not in the leadership “must haves,” your team expects the following soft behaviors. With your team, it’s a bit of a different lens.

1) Inspiration

Your team, especially the millennials of the group, expect to join a company with inspiration. They want to be a part of something bigger. Whether you feel it or not, you need to find an answer that keeps them engaged with your company’s future. The days of purely winning people over with paychecks and perks are over.

First, be frank about where your company is – the reality of the day. Then inspire and define a new reality. Catapult your team into new thinking. Where is the new vision – even if you don’t attain it – of what your company will be? It can’t just be a place in the Fortune 500 queue. It needs to show them how your company will change the world, either by making it quicker and more efficient, or better and helpful to humanity. That is inspiration.

2) Thank Yous

The bottom line is this: Your team will not work well for you if they are not appreciated. A formerly soft goal becomes a hard goal, for your retention will suffer. Pay attention to your people.

Your day should be filled with slow, clear-eyed thank yous. Recognition of people and what they do. Appreciation privately, and appreciation expressed in a business unit or in front of the whole team. Being thankful is not a command. You have to feel it and live it, or it won’t work.

3) Service

While you must be a commander, a leader, and a firm, positive person, you must also serve. You are never fully in control “at the top.” People need your direction from on high, but they also need to know you want their feedback.  Come from a lower position looking up to them. You encourage their ideas. You are present, and helpful. You listen. All of this is part of serving.  

There are so many ways to serve. Recently, I started taking my work out to the general lunch place, and talking with some of my team. I was accessible and some wonderful conversations took place. I feel connected in a completely different way. I also learned a lot. Servanthood is about helping, listening and taking the time.   

As you lead, you can provide inspiration, appreciation, and the willingness to serve.  You will see results in the strength of your relationships, and even how you feel about yourself.  Your company will strengthen and thrive.  

Pamela Hawley is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, an award-winning nonprofit that connects volunteers and donors with quality service opportunities. She is a winner of the Jefferson Award (the Nobel Prize in Community Service) and has been invited to three Social Innovation events at the White House. She also writes Living and Giving, a blog with the mission of “Inspiring Leaders to Live with Excellence and Love.”

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