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Viken Mikaelian CEO

Viken Mikaelian CEO

Majorgifts.com LLC

Leadership Roles and Responsibilities: Nurture Your Leadership Skills

Developing leadership skills can advance your career, notes Viken Mikaelian, founder and CEO, Center for Major Gifts (Valley Forge, PA). But effective leadership will also move your nonprofit forward and attract more donors, he says. Here are a few of his tips on how to become a strong leader.

First, understand the difference between leaders and managers. “A lot of people think they are leaders whereas they are managers,” Mikaelian says. Leaders are visionaries who create long-term strategies, while managers execute day-to-day tactics to make those visions real. Good leaders guide managers and employees but avoid micro-managing, he says.

Time management is a crucial component of good leadership. Although there may seem to be never enough time, smart leaders “spend time alone in the morning introspecting about their life, their future and their day,” Mikaelian says. “If you don’t take that time out, your day will go crazier.”

Self-development is important too, Mikaelian notes. The best path? “Read, read, read,” he advises. Top picks range from the ancient Chinese text The Art of War to “anything by Zig Ziglar.” Mikaelian reads biographies and blogs of famous leaders running the gamut from Genghis Khan to Elon Musk.

Many people are terrified of speaking in front of groups, but public speaking is a critical leadership skill, Mikaelian says. The best way to banish the butterflies is to just do it. “You get nervous, but once you get into it you can get in front of a crowd and just start talking,” he says.

Future thinking and strategizing is the most important leadership skill of all, Mikaelian says, because “small hinges swing big doors.”

“It’s so easy to get sucked into tactical thinking versus strategic thinking,” he says. “With tactical thinking you’re trying to do things one by one to make sure they all work. With strategic thinking you’re thinking, ‘What can I do to make a big impact and what steps can I take to make a big impact?’”

The path to successful strategizing is to get your audience to love you, he advises. How do you do that?

“That’s easy,” he says. “Let them do the majority of the talking.” It’s not all about you. He points to the story of a young English socialite who dated two prominent 19th-century British politicians, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. “Gladstone convinced me that he was the cleverest person in England,” she observed. “But Disraeli made me feel like I was the cleverest person in England.”

By the Numbers

Consider the recruitment opportunities for your organization that these stats indicate:

  • About 63 million Americans (25% of the adult population) volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
  • These people spend an average of 52 hours/year volunteering.
  • 72% of volunteers are involved with only one organization, while 18.3% are involved with two.

Random interesting stats presented monthly from various sources.