Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Shot of Ambition?

"She came away feeling something firmly associated with the private sector: ambition."

Alison Damast, "Narrowing the Nonprofit Talent Gap," Business Week, August 11, 2008.

A variety of private-sector programs and partnerships are emerging to address the executive "talent shortage" in the nonprofit sector. See: Nonprofit Leadership and nonprofit leadership blog postings. Some of these initiatives train promising nonprofit leaders; others try to entice retiring private sector executives to move into the world of nonprofits. All good ideas.

"The management ranks at nonprofits are perilously thin. Low pa, long hours, and incessant fundraising dissuade many from entering the field. Those who do join are more often drawn by the cause than the potential for promotion."

"What does ambition have to do with it," echoing the complaint of Tina Turner. Is the problem with the nonprofit sector one of ambition, as opposed to money, good policy, or demographics?

I'm struck by the advice that two different nonprofit execs received from the private sector as reported in this article -- stop micromanaging; and get more detail oriented. Ain't they the same thing?

Discussing the important differences would have been a better taking off point for addressing the leadership gap in all sectors than invoking the supposed ambition deficit of nonprofits.

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