Your Nonprofit Leadership Style: The Game

03/01/2021 5:18 PM | Anonymous

By ACN Members Mindy Faber and Margaret Conway

Leadership isn’t only for those with “director” or “manager” in their titles. We all serve as leaders on problems that require our particular skills, expertise, or creativity. Leadership skills often come into play as we collaborate with colleagues or partner  organizations, mentor new colleagues, or serve our organization’s constituents.

We at Convergence Design  Lab created a deck of cards called Leader Hats that we use with clients as a playful way to think about how leadership style can impact their organization and the work that they do. Each card features a particular “hat” representing a positive style or approach to leading, facilitating, or mentoring.  The cards can be used as a quick icebreaker at a meeting, as a more structured game, or as a discussion and reflection tool.

Are you the Coach pushing everyone to reach their full-potential, the TED-talker inspiring others with your deep insights, or more a Therapist, serving as a one-on-one reflection guide? And which style best fits each of your colleagues? Take a look at the cards below or the full downloadable deck here, which can be printed and cut to make your own deck.

  • Choose the hat that you wear the most when leading or mentoring. Why does it fit you so well? Choose another hat that you don’t often wear. How might you try it on?
  • Identify cards that you think your colleagues demonstrate the most often. Share with them why you think they wear it well!
  • Pick a random card and challenge yourself to think of a way to apply that style to your work.

The possibilities for using these cards are endless. Spread them out on a table to prompt discussion. Identify more leadership styles and add them to the deck. Play our favorite game and have each person chose the style they think defines each colleague best, write it on a Post-it note, and stick it on that person's back. Now guess what style most colleagues picked for you! 

In workshops, we find these cards get people talking within seconds about themselves and sharing stories about each other’s personal strengths. So often we admire our colleagues secretly but don’t take time to openly appreciate them or consider how we might adopt their most successful practices. How did a colleague whose leadership style you’d like to emulate come to adopt that approach? Who influenced their style? How did they develop it?

Using these cards can give nonprofit directors a chance (in a playful, risk-free context) to reflect openly on their leadership and new strengths they’d like to develop. Modeling a “growth mindset” about leadership—the belief that one’s ability as a leader is not a fixed trait but rather a skill that can grow with effort—is a powerful example for others. It gives permission to everyone in your organization to take on a learning disposition: “I have things I want to work on. I can learn from others. I don’t have to be the expert on everything.”

Mindy Faber and Margaret Conway are co-founders of Convergence Design Lab, which helps nonprofits design learning experiences—including professional workshops and e-learning—engage in strategic planning, and evaluate programs. Mindy is a seasoned media educator, nonprofit leader, artist, evaluator, and advocate with expertise in connected learning, youth media, civic education, and digital literacy. Margaret is an arts educator with a theoretical background in connected learning, curriculum design, evaluation, professional development, and participatory media. Contact them if you’d like to schedule a free Leader Hats workshop for your nonprofit.

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