Leaders in non-profit groups should be properly trained

SINGAPORE is evolving into a society where volunteerism is becoming an important feature.

Thus, it is necessary for leaders in not-for-profit organisations - be it in paid or voluntary positions - to be professionally trained.

Leadership in a volunteer-based organisation, such as the Rotary Club, is as challenging, if not more than, as in a for-profit set-up.

In for-profit organisations, there is a management, and hierarchical authority and power. Employees are required to respect and comply with the decisions of, for example, the chief executive.

This is often not the case in an organisation where members are volunteers.

Volunteers who do not agree with their leaders can simply opt not to continue to be involved. And they can do so for mundane reasons, such as disliking their leaders' communication style.

To be effective, these leaders need to have a relatively higher level of emotional quotient as well as skills of persuasion, among other things. They must also consult more, rather than just give orders.

Leaders who utilise their set of corporate or business leadership styles when they cross over to the volunteer sector have a high likelihood of failing.

Volunteers then tend to leave and the organisation suffers.

Maybe it is time to require current, and aspiring, leaders in non-profit organisations to undergo professional leadership courses, such as the Centre for Non-Profit Leadership's Compass Programme.

In any organisation, leaders play a key role and should be equipped with the right mindset and tools to be effective.

This is important enough not to be left to chance.

Paul Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline 'Leaders in non-profit groups should be properly trained'. Print Edition | Subscribe