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Status Quo Sucks


If you work for a nonprofit (well, for most of them), you'll be doing something that challenges the status quo.

  • The status quo is that people die when they get cancer.
  • The status quo is that people living on the street starve.
  • The status quo is that gays and lesbians have fewer rights.
  • The status quo is that kids who go to schools in lower-income areas don't go to college.

Good for you to do something about this. Action is needed and you're on the front lines of it.

But what about when it comes time for you to challenge the status quo of the very organization that challenges the status quo? It's about more than speaking or even speaking out - it's about leadership.

Tera Wozniak Qualls offered some great thoughts on Monday as part of our four-part series about becoming a leader in the nonprofit sector. Her four suggestions are spot on and I won't seek to improve upon them here.

However, part of becoming a leader is having a vision, articulating it to key stakeholders, and then putting together what you need to bring that vision into reality. Many times, that vision will be at odds with the status quo. Challenging it, then, will be the first step in this journey, and is one that will be uncomfortable.

Power structures are in place for a reason. Someone is benefiting right now from the status quo and they don't want it changed. Thus, more than learning how to speak publicly or even share an idea, challenging the status quo creates opposition and adversity. Great leaders know how to navigate both.

You can do this in small ways before you take on bigger battles. Supporting initiatives that aren't so earth-shattering, voicing an opinion that isn't too out there, and making small but important personal behavior changes are critical steps that can help you gain confidence by having a real impact.

I blogged about Darfur long before I decided to provide people with a daily idea to save the world.

Challenging the status quo is best done in incremental steps. Then, when you're ready, you'll be able to set out on the marathon that is large-scale societal transformation. So, get ready. We need you.

Because the status quo sucks.

On Wednesday, Tera Wozniak Qualls will be discussing the uncomfortableness that comes from proposing an idea that might fail. Click here to see the rest of what Tera and I will be chatting about this month. In the meantime, let us know how you’ve built your leadership skills through uncomfortable situations. Use #devleadership on Twitter and Facebook or comment on this blog to let us know your story.

Photo by skpy

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