Leading the Way to a Humane World: 4 Keys to Leadership Development
Creating a more humane world calls for leadership. But how do you stay at the forefront of a movement that’s full of challenges and rife with burnout? The answer is in lifelong learning. Lifelong learning not only keeps you up-to-date on the best practices in leadership and animal welfare, but it also keeps your inner spark lit. When you want to become a more effective leader and changemaker, the following four areas are a great place to start.
Learning How to Lead
Whether you’re leading a Fortune 500 company or a small nonprofit like the Zoology Foundation, leadership requires management ability. From managing projects to managing people and animals, leaders need the skills necessary to run an effective organization.
Where can you learn those skills? These online courses are a great place to start:
- The American Management Association offers a variety of courses in leadership, project management, and other core skills. AMA courses let participants earn certifications and continuing education units.
- GetSmarter works with instructional partners like the University of Cape Town and University of Oxford to create online short courses where learners can earn certificates.
- For low-cost courses from a variety of universities and institutions, look to online learning platforms like edX and Coursera. Learners can also find short-form content covering a wide range of topics on Udemy.
At the Zoology Foundation, we pride ourselves on our leadership skills. We encourage these skills in every team member, not just the team lead and general manager. Every team member has important experiences and knowledge to share. For this reason, we consider everyone a leader in their area of expertise.
For example, our vet tech, Meg, has taught other team members how to properly assess the health of the animals in order to determine whether vet care is needed, give injections, and clean wounds. Through these health workshops, she has become a leader among the team for health and veterinary related issues. Another team member, our animal care technician Paula, is working on creating a new enrichment plan for Zoology Foundation. Not only is she researching and creating the materials in order to implement the new program, but she will also be introducing it to the rest of the team, getting their feedback, and evaluating to make sure the implementation goes smoothly. This will require leadership skills.
Giving everyone the opportunity to sharpen their skills, feel like they’re heard, and making a difference makes them feel empowered. This makes our small team extremely strong! While we don’t offer a formal course in leadership, any of our team members would be happy to speak with you about techniques that have improved our management skills among our team members.
Becoming a Better Teacher
The scenarios described above show that teaching can be an important part of being a good leader. As a leader in creating a humane world, you’re also in charge of educating people about issues surrounding animal welfare and the environment. However, educating others requires more than knowledge. These tips will help you become a more impactful teacher:
- Customizing your instruction is key – The best teachers understand not only the learning style that best suits their students, but also what motivates them to take action.
- Asking relevant questions deepens understanding of a topic – Whether that’s asking questions to learn more about an issue or to probe a pupil’s understanding, be sure to stay inquisitive.
- One of the most effective ways to teach is through modeling – By exhibiting the values and behavior you want to see, you encourage others to take the same path. For example, our team at the Zoology Foundation provides our animals with such high standards of care that all of our visitors clearly recognize them. Hopefully, they are inspired to follow our lead.
Building Strong Relationships
You can’t grow as a leader if you’re not adept at building relationships and alliances. The right connections not only further your own professional development, they also help you achieve your vision. However, relationship building skills are among the hardest to master. To expand your network and your mission, here’s what you need to do:
- The most important thing leaders can do is make relationship-building a priority – While it’s easy to get bogged down with everything else on your to-do list, relationships are critical to long-term success.
- Don’t just ask what your relationships can do for you – Generous leaders create loyal partners who are eager to collaborate and give back. At the Zoology Foundation, we reach out to other sanctuaries and animal care facilities when we have an issue we can’t quite figure out — and vice versa. Sharing ideas and knowledge with other organizations has taught us a lot and helped improve our care, and we hope we’ve done the same for others.
- Always look for the good in others – While criticism has its place, being appreciative is more likely to motivate others to do their best.
Preventing Compassion Fatigue
Part of lifelong learning for leaders in the animal welfare world is learning how to avoid compassion fatigue. While there will always be difficult times when you’re working for a better world, these strategies keep you and your team’s heads above water:
- Promote mindfulness in your team – From strategies for reducing personal stress to the awareness to recognize when others need support, mindfulness is self-care for the whole team.
- Frustration thrives in silence, so create safe spaces for speaking up in meetings – When individuals feel heard, the organization as a whole grows stronger.
- Strengthen the connections you’ve made – Whether it’s a team lunch or a one-on-one with a mentor, making space for relationships outside of the office as well as inside of it creates a feeling of community.
- Remind your team members about the importance of what they’re doing – It’s not always easy being a part of the Zoology Foundation. After all, caring for around 140 animals can sometimes be heartbreaking. But we remind each other that our work matters and that we’re making a difference in these creatures’ lives, which gives us all a lot of encouragement, even on especially-hard days.
Leadership starts with passion, but it doesn’t end there. As a leader, you’re also responsible for strategy, education, and mobilization if you want to achieve your vision. With these resources, you can enhance your leadership skills and take your mission to the next level.
This post was written Sean Morris as a guest blogger for our website. Sean left his job as a social worker to spend more time with his kids. Today, he writes for LearnFit in his spare time.
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