Addressing Executive Director Skill Gaps: Investing in Leadership Enrichment for BIPOC Leaders

bipoc community responsibility Jun 05, 2023
 Addressing Executive Director Skill Gaps: Investing in Leadership Enrichment for BIPOC Leaders

In this series, we delve into the significance of investing in the leadership enrichment of BIPOC Leaders. While funding programs is crucial, foundations can maximize their impact by providing leaders with access to address soft skill gaps, peer support communities, and a thriving network.

In today's dynamic and diverse world, fostering inclusive leadership and providing equal opportunities for all individuals are paramount. There are big problems to solve and we need all hands on deck and for far too long our society has put their best asset of diversity on the side lines of solving our biggest problems.

For BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) nonprofit and community leaders, access to resources and support networks has traditionally been limited, hindering their professional growth and their ability to effect lasting change in their communities. 

The Burden of Nonprofit and Community Leadership

Leading a nonprofit organization entails a unique level of stress compared to other industries. I am not suggesting that it is more stressful, but rather highlighting the additional stress BIPOC leaders of nonprofits and community organizations carry due to systemic injustices and the emotional burden often felt due to a desire to affect change for their communities.

As a result, BIPOC leaders have become adept at doing more with less, exhibiting resourcefulness and innovation in problem-solving. However, funding organizations must recognize the existence of skill gaps that need to be addressed to ensure the highest quality of supported programs.

Identifying the Skill Gaps:

American society has experienced a significant awakening concerning social justice issues and the impact of injustice on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). BIPCO Nonprofit and community leaders who have been at the forefront of addressing these issues for years are beginning to witness much-needed funding flowing into their organizations. There has been an increase in venture philanthropy, as well as communities of color leveraging their financial expertise to create funds and provide crucial financial support. This positive development is long overdue and encouraging to witness.

The next piece of the puzzle is leadership development and enrichment. Many foundations have taken the lead in this area, offering essential operational leadership development programs such as the Denver Foundation's Executive Directors of Color Institute (EDCI). Programs like EDCI help identify skill gaps in securing funding, budgeting, legal compliance, operational efficiencies, human resources, and change management.

While operational and technical skills are crucial, there remains a need to address skill gaps in soft skills, including authentic leadership, managing difficult workplace relationships, and stress and anxiety management. Fighting unjust systems, as well as difficult, toxic, and stressful work environments can drain the life, hope, and good intentions from any organization. It is imperative to have programs that address the following issues:

  1. Controlling one's emotions.
  2. Not allowing others to control one's emotions and decisions.
  3. Becoming calmer and less anxious.
  4. Creating a less anxious workplace.
  5. Maintaining connections with individuals who hold differing views or attempt to sabotage.
  6. Expressing guiding principles, thoughts, and vision without manipulation.
  7. Having a clear idea and plan for personal and professional goals.
  8. Pursuing personal and professional goals without sacrificing organizational success or growth.

It is evident that both operational and soft skills must work in harmony to achieve the best possible outcomes. However, these development and enrichment services have remained inaccessible to BIPOC leaders for far too long. Foundations can enhance the impact of the projects they fund by incorporating leadership development and enrichment as part of the funding package. BIPOC leaders will warmly embrace the opportunity to upskill in these areas, and with increased resources, their potential for success knows no bounds.

 In conclusion, addressing the skill gaps of executive directors is a critical investment in the leadership enrichment of BIPOC leaders. While funding programs is essential, it is equally important to provide leaders with the necessary resources and support networks to thrive. By acknowledging the unique challenges faced by BIPOC leaders in the nonprofit and community sectors, foundations can play a pivotal role in creating a more equitable and inclusive landscape.

Foundations can maximize their impact by recognizing the need for both operational and soft skills development. Programs like the Denver Foundation's Executive Directors of Color Institute (EDCI) are a step in the right direction, but there is still much work to be done. Soft skills such as authentic leadership, managing workplace relationships, and stress management from programs like the UnBoxed2Lead BIPOC Leaders Peer Support Community are vital for creating healthier and more productive work environments.

BIPOC leaders have proven their resilience and resourcefulness, accomplishing remarkable achievements despite limited resources. By investing in their leadership development and enrichment, foundations can unlock their full potential and empower them to make an even greater impact in their communities.

It is time for foundations to ensure they are getting the most from their funding investments by including leadership development and enrichment as an integral part of their support. By doing so, they open doors for BIPOC leaders to access the tools, networks, and skills they need to excel. Together, let us create a future where all leaders, regardless of their background, have the support and resources they need to create lasting change and build a more inclusive and equitable society.

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