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When The Buck Stops And When To Pass It

You can’t do everything yourself. There’s simply not enough hours in a day for nonprofit managers to get everything done without a little delegation. Making difficult decisions and handling the delicate balance of when and when not to delegate are two difficult tasks of an organization’s leader.

Tobie S. Stein, author of Leadership in the Performing Arts, addresses insights from the performing arts industry that can be applied to all nonprofit organizations.

Before making a decision, it is important to ask the right questions and receive feedback from board members and stakeholders in your organization. Leaders such as Paul Tetreault, director of Ford’s Theater, rarely make decisions in a vacuum. “What is this history of this decision? Who made the previous decision? What were the results?” are among the questions he highlights. Using cross-functional teams to assist in making and executing a decision allows leaders to take full advantage of team members different areas of expertise.

It is also essential to remember, however, that the leader is tasked with making the final decision. Tim McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation, says while he takes others opinions into consideration, “the buck stops with me with regard to decision making.” By managing the balance between cooperative decision making and being the one to ultimately pull the trigger, effective leaders make others feel they are being heard while ultimately still being the one to make the final call.

Some decisions and tasks, however, do not need to be the responsibility of the organization’s leader and can be delegated to other employees. Delegating responsibilities allows a leader to have better control over their own calendar and be able to respond if something urgent arises. In some situations, someone is better qualified to make the decision or can use it as a learning experience to advance and can take on the task, freeing up a leader to take on only the most essential tasks for an organization’s success.

As we celebrate our 36th year, NPT remains dedicated to supplying breaking news, in-depth reporting, and special issue coverage to help nonprofit executives run their organizations more effectively.