Nonprofit Leader Superpowers

During my time working in the nonprofit sector, I have had the opportunity to interact with some incredible leaders.  These folks, and countless others like them, champion their organizations, elevate their people and perform small miracles on a regular basis.  The unfortunate reality is that leading in the nonprofit sector is tough work, but leaders with these superpowers seem to thrive.


It is considered a good thing if you can perform a job that aligns to your passion, but nonprofit leaders take this to a whole other level.  In my experience, this type of passion is not self-centered, but mission and client community focused.  These leaders have a superpower passion for solving the needs of others. They surround themselves with people who share that passion and encourage its development in others.


In some instances, incredible passion can be a problem and too much focus can be inefficient or even harmful.  Great nonprofit leaders match their passion to superpower compassion or empathy.  This power allows them to balance their drive to do good with the ability to do it well.  These leaders strive to achieve their mission by bringing everyone along, by recognizing the value in all contributors and by ensuring that the help they provide to their target community is provided fairly and respectfully.


The best nonprofit leaders also understand and appreciate the work of others and have the superpower gratitude.  These leaders go the extra mile to identify and recognize the contributions of their team members, staff and partners.  They also have the ability to not only be generous with their gratitude, but also to tailor it in ways to make individuals feel special when receiving it and they somehow know exactly when it is needed most.


Serving the nonprofit sector can be tough.  There are never enough resources, there are times of extreme pressure and issues often seem to turn into mountains to overcome.  This is when you need a leader with the superpower encouragement.  These leaders genuinely understand the challenges and strive to help.  They do this by sharing suggestions, being a sounding board or reminding someone of all that they can achieve.  They also understand the value of allowing someone the personal success of working through an issue themselves.


The last great nonprofit leader superpower is listening.  The leaders who master this superpower are able to display all of the other powers, yet are still eager and engaged in actively absorbing feedback from stakeholders.  This is the most important of the superpowers as listening is required for learning and for ensuring that the work they do is truly aligned to the needs of the community they serve.


Bottom Line

Nonprofit leaders face challenges every day, since they operate in a sector that attempts to do the impossible.  These leaders help people in difficult situations and try to save the planet.  They attempt to secure the future for those to come or to preserve culture of those who have been and stand against those who wittingly or unwittingly threaten those communities. These special folks do all of this with often limited resources.  The leaders who excel against the odds have superpowers, but they developed these powers and so can you.

Do you know of a leader who exemplifies these superpowers or other powers not noted?  Please share your experiences in the comments section.


Related resources to explore:

Nonprofit Hub article:  5 Traits of Successful Nonprofit Leaders

The Bridgespan Group:  A Framework for Great Nonprofit Leadership


For more NFP topics, check out the nonprofit leadership blog:  Not for Profit Beyond the Numbers

If you have questions or would like a consultation on a nonprofit leadership issue, contact me at:

For more about the author, follow this link:  Michael F. Cade, CPA, CGMA