Unshakeable Leadership in the Eye of a Storm

Emily H. Benham | CEO, NLC Tips

Hurricanes are something I’ve come to accept as part of living in Florida. While there is plenty of uncertainty in tracking their trajectory, we typically know when we’ll be affected by a storm. We can put together our emergency supply kits, find a safe place to stay or evacuate. Today, we find ourselves in what feels like a Category 5 hurricane that refuses to weaken. We don’t know if it will pass quickly and leave us unscathed or destroy everything we’ve come to know. How do we as nonprofit leaders stand in the eye of the storm and remain calm without getting swept up in it? That’s the question Kashi Atlanta founder Swami Jaya Devi Bhagavati recently asked during a webinar I attended by the Independent Sector on how to maintain an unshakable presence in turbulent times.

I’ve been thinking about the question and her guidance a lot during the past few weeks. The word unshakeable is defined as utterly firm and unwavering, not possible to weaken, too strong to be changed or destroyed. In a world where everything around us feels like it’s being shaken to its core, nonprofit missions and leadership must remain unshakeable. Here are three things I took away from Swami Jaya Devi’s advice that can help all of us stay unshakeable as we weather the current storm.

Unshakeable leadership in turbulent times | Nonprofit Leadership Center

Nonprofit leaders are social change warriors.

In the day-to-day flurry of mitigating revenue loss, managing virtual teams, pivoting to find new grant money and supporting the communities we serve, it can be easy to forget that you are making a difference. But you are. Nonprofit leaders and organizations are social change warriors. Our communities rely on nonprofits, and our sector is doing remarkable things to help individuals and families endure this crisis. The days may be long and the anxiety may be high, but what you are doing today will have a profound impact on our collective ability to thrive long after this storm passes.

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With a pandemic comes new possibilities.

In her talk, Swami Jaya Devi reminded me that we can find meaning in the most unlikely of places, including a crisis. Unprecedented times also allow for unprecedented possibilities. During the past two months, I’ve witnessed nonprofit teams adapt more quickly and creatively than at any time in my career. We have learned that we can work in new and different ways and that programs or processes that may have worked in the past simply will not work in the days ahead. While anxiety continues to heighten, social connections bring calm and clarity. When leaders come together for the common good and bring their collective ideas and strengths to the table, albeit virtually, anything is possible.

Say no to “not enoughness.”

Uncertainty breeds all kinds of feelings, including anxiety, pressure, trauma and fear. In times of uncertainty, it can be easy to fall back on what Swami Jay Devi refers to as scarcity thinking, or the concept of “not enoughness.” It’s the thought process of consistently asking ourselves if we’re doing enough — for our families, our teams, our nonprofits, our community. Am I enough? Are we doing enough? I know I’ve been asking myself these things on a daily basis.

To all the nonprofit leaders out there, I have an important reminder for you:

You are enough.

You are doing the best you can, and what you are doing is making a difference.

You are strong and you are resilient.

Together, we’ve got this!

READ NEXT: Managing Mental and Emotional Exhaustion in Times of Crisis

Resources

Webinar: Unshakeable Presence in Turbulent Times | Independent Sector

14 Practices for the Pandemic from Kashi Atlanta

Free Webinars to Help Your Nonprofit Through the Pandemic