Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend NTEN’s NTC (Nonprofit Technology Conference). It was a fantastic gathering of folks from every sector of the nonprofit world who had come together to share ideas, learn, and collaborate about new technologies that can help us do our jobs more effectively and efficiently (while having more fun). One of the most interesting sessions I attended was about being a true leader in your organization; not just a techie.
We may have a special lingo and geeky open source stickers, but what we techies can bring to the larger team is a very valuable leadership position: We can make work more efficient for staff, help align programs and strategies, and provide tools for staff and departments to work collaboratively and share knowledge. We can also guide decisions for the organization with our unique and important perspective.
The discussion made me think about user-generated content and the two-way flow of information that comes with adopting new social media components. This is usually one of the biggest sources of fear for organizations just beginning on the road to web 2.0. But isn’t the openness to letting go of control of the message and specific content similar to the opening of leadership opportunities for staff? (And shouldn’t it be that neither creates fear in the organization and its leadership team?)
Organizations that are the most successful in building community online are those that can distribute information AND listen, create conversations AND follow those of others. Isn’t this true of organizations that are successful in building dynamic leaders? If organizations’ leadership teams enable tech staff to provide input and insight, those techies move away from the “just techie” side of things, and into being a leader. If organizations’ leadership teams enable tech staff to be part of the strategy development process, I would bet that the strategy would look different and that there would be less confusion, delay, and/or implementation time.
The biggest requirement for the technologist (and the leadership team) in this situation (moving from the techie to the leader) is the knowledge of and involvement in the creation of the organization’s “business” goals - how else one can provide the technology piece of the equation properly. “New media” has many terrific tools, but the technology layer should be put in place only after the other goals are worked out.
Social media tools are put to the best use in outreach campaigns when the campaign is designed first, and the technology is integrated as it aligns. Just like this process, tech leaders need to be a part of the development and shared knowledge of the organization’s goals so that the best technologies can be used in the most appropriate ways.
So how are you, as a techie, working on becoming a leader for your organization? Or, how are you, as a non-techie, enabling those who are “just techies” to become leaders?
Amy Sample Ward’s passion for nonprofit technology has lead to her involvement with NTEN, NetSquared, and a host of other organizations. She shares many of her thoughts on nonprofit technology news and evolutions on her blog.