Skip to main content

Three Most Important Nonprofit Executive Director Soft Skills

If you were asked to narrow down the list of executive director qualifications to the three most important, which ones would you identify? Would the list consist of soft skills, hard skills, or some combination? Would your list be based on the great ED you are or one you've worked for, or would it be your wish list for the ED you haven't been fortunate yet to work for? 

This was an assignment in my recent online class in leadership and administration for the American Association for State and Local History. I asked the class to review three-five advertisements for museum directors and analyze what these listings intimated about the organization’s past experience, current focus and goals, and future aspirations. Then, I asked the class to identify what they consider to be the three most important qualifications they would look for in a director. (Okay, so there's more than three if you dissect my three big groups.) 

Soft skills outnumbered hard skills, although demonstrated museum/nonprofit experience is right up there on the list.  We'll focus on the soft skills in this post; hard skills later.  Here's what the class said: 

Passion, Vision and Creativity 
"Museums need innovative and ambitious thinkers willing to try new things while being careful to not lose sight of those ever-important priorities," wrote one participant.  Another wrote, "Willing to carry out the values and vision of the organization."  Others cited a passion for the museum's discipline (science or history, for example) or special focus (Impressionist art or American arts and crafts). But this is not just about the objects; it's about connecting the dots. In that vein, one wrote, "Passion about the relevance of history to modern life." 

Effective Communication 
How many times have we seen this is a position listing?  When you think about the sheer number of people museums and their leaders interact with, communication is not just about speaking and writing in whole sentences.  This is about being able to build bridges at the staff and board levels, among audiences and within the community; to articulate a vision and purpose in ways that inspire individuals to get involved; to understand different groups and how to talk/work with them and a willingness to keep staff informed; and to negotiate and be able to reach consensus. 

I was surprised at how many times this attribute was cited as a top qualification.  This contribution from a class member says it all:  "I think that a good leader should always be open to the possibility that they might be wrong, or at least be aware that there might be alternative ways that something can be viewed. Be cognizant that you can always learn something new from anyone. First and foremost remain open to dialogue and differing points of view and always listen to advice given. You don’t have to follow it, but just listen, it just might be worth it. And don’t tell anyone to do something that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself."


Unknown said…
These traits are on target! For me, "Communication" is key. "Passion" can't be faked, at least not for long.
Thanks for your comments, Carolyn! Communication may be the key underlying skill -- without it even the most passionate, innovative, or thoughtful leader can't lead.

Unknown said…
I definitely agree with these "soft skills" that are listed. I particularly find humility to be an important one, especially in non-profit situations. Non-profit organizations tend to be a lot more democratic than corporations are, and therefore the leader has to know how to honestly evaluate the merits of ideas and accept them above his/her own if they're more valuable. That takes a lot of humility and understanding and I feel like that's the lifeblood of service-based organizations. Great article!
Rose Maria said…
Help understanding definition of non-profit organization?
Jhon Marshal said…
This is easier and surely gives comfort to internet users. Thanks for sharing. Post like this offers great benefit. Thank you!
Jr. Williams said…
I wanted to thank you for this great read. Your blog is one of the finest blog . Thanks for posting this informative article.
Donation Distribution
Jhon Marshal said…
Great article, this is such an interesting and informative article.
millionaire podcast
Unknown said…
As a leader or director, you must have enough convincing power to encourage your team to work towards a required goal. Your given order should seem less of a command and more of a personal appeal to enhance the overall feeling of teamwork and unity.
Corporate Soft Skills Trainers in Bangalore | Effective Communication Skills Training Bangalore
aliyaa said…
The proofreading dissertation is an important skill for anyone to accomplish, and however much time is spent checking through your own work mistakes can be overlooked.
Unknown said…
Nice article, this is an interesting and informative post. I really get much info about the soft and hard skills. I was search about the soft and hard skills but this article is very helpful for me. useful link
Roy said…
Instructive prerequisites shift for various nations. For example age to begin tutoring shifts in various nations. For specific nations some type of tutoring is obligatory for youthful kids while others assert youngsters to appreciate the early years at home.more
anonymous said…
But people do need to understand that education is not an investment system where you invest your money and in future you will be able to earn double on the base of your degree and something to read
Unknown said…
ATS writing is not so easy . You can do this easily when you follow some rules of it. This blog do this same work. This blog just advised you, that how to make it easier. If you need more information ,then you can visit this site.

click here .
vishnu said…
Thank you for posting this useful information.

Wordpress Training in Chennai | Wordpress course in Chennai
Ava Lou said…
It is a nice read and very helpful. This translation will be a perfect option for us so that you can really get some work from us. into the right direction to make it happened to know about the thesis writing.
akash thakur said…
Thanks for giving great kind of information. So useful and practical for me. Thanks for your excellent blog, nice work keep it up thanks for sharing the knowledge.
dining room interior designer in noida
Unknown said…
nice work keep it up thanks for sharing the knowledge.Thanks for sharing this type of information, it is so useful.
Epoxy Grout manufacturer
I feel happy about and learning more about this topic. keep sharing your information regularly for my future reference. This content creates a new hope and inspiration with in me. Thanks for sharing article like this. the information which you have provided is better then other blog.
Best IELTS Coaching centre in Dwarka
Heal and Rise said…
A good blog always comes-up with new and exciting information and while reading I have feel that this blog is really have all those quality.for information regarding soft skills training please visit to the link.
Personality Development in Delhi

Orgstead said…
Finding recruitment and leadership management consulting firms in India? then this is the right place for you. Orgstead is one of the best consulting firms which offer you various type of consulting services like education consulting, management consulting and much more.
Pardeep Mengi said…
Usually I never comment on blogs but your article is so convincing that I never stop myself to say something about it. You’re doing a great job Man,Keep it up.
Study in New Zealand Consultants in Delhi
monu said…
Thank you for excellent article.Great information for new guy like antimalware service executable
I have voiced some of the posts on your website now, and I really like your blogging style. I added it to my list of favorite blogging sites and will be back soon ...

Business Analytics Course in Bangalore
Happy to chat on your blog, I feel like I can't wait to read more reliable posts and think we all want to thank many blog posts to share with us.

Data Analytics Course in Bangalore
Online Front said…
Online Front is the best website development company in India. Who provides professional website development services. We have a team of expert website designing and development. who definitely build a customize and attractive website for you and your targeted customer. you can generate unlimited revenue by promoting your online store with digital marketing services. and, the online front is a one-stop digital solution where you can get full services related to your online business.
Visit :-
Website Development Company In Delhi
Digital Marketing Company In Delhi
Website Development Packages
Website Designing company in delhi
Social Media Management Packages
Email Marketing Services

Visit Our Partner’s Site:-

Gas Stove Repair & Services in Delhi
B2B Marketplace in Delhi
Satta King
Satta King Guru said…
"Thanks for the Information and keep writing this type of content.
Get In Touch with Us"
"If Want Play online Satta games click here :-

Satta King
jegan said…
wonderful article contains lot of valuable information. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.
This article resolved my all queries.good luck an best wishes to the team members.continue posting.learn digital marketing use these following link
Digital Marketing Course in Chennai

Popular posts from this blog

4 Nonprofit Resolutions for 2021

Even though 2020 will technically be in our rear view mirror soon, its ramifications will be with us for years to come. Make no mistake, there's a lot of work to do. So, here are my four really tough, but really important, resolutions designed to lay some solid groundwork for doing your best work in 2021. Aren't you glad there are only four? If you're interested in my resolutions from previous years, take a look here  and here .

4 Strategies to Pivot and Lead Through Disruption

Organizational Resiliency in This Crucible Moment

I am currently working with two colleagues from the cultural and heritage fields to think and write about organizational resiliency in times of upheaval and ambiguity. We believe resiliency in this crucible moment requires, first and foremost, nonprofit organizations activate equity and inclusion by embracing it as central to all their internal and external work. It begins when organizations commit the time to examine their own historical roots and practices as a critical step to ensure they “live” their most meaningful missions, visions, and values. Resiliency requires many organizations also renegotiate what it means to be valuable to their communities. The traditional idea of “value” has changed and is changing, and recognizing the extent to what our communities really value is key to being wanted, needed, and, thus relevant. All organizations must retool their financial mindsets, taking a hard look at their current financial realities and realigning the costs of doing business with