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  • Alina Cherednichenko

Leadership based on the management of values: how to build relationships

How often does it happen that when you try to explain something to someone, you fail? The person does not understand anything that you are talking about. Although you speak the same language, you feel that you live in different worlds.

Various paradigms of thinking determine the distinct ways of perceiving the world and making decisions, the principles of organization and interaction, and the management of social structures. The different paradigms of thinking make us react differently to the same reality. They are neither good nor bad and are neither better nor worse than other ways of thinking.

Whenever we talk about a nonprofit organization (NPO), we always talk about the culture of relationships. We speak not about communication, but rather about internal connections and the ability to build and develop relationships with donors, stakeholders, and volunteers. It is not a secret for anyone that the main values of an NPO are neither money, power, nor rules. The main values are harmony and relationships.

An NPO communicates with two different groups of external stakeholders with different values. On one hand, there are business companies, and on the other hand, there are governments and foundations.

Businesses try to involve employees in different social initiatives more and more. However, it is not a secret for anyone that companies work for measurable results, such as profits, decreasing expenses, increasing sales, etc. Therefore, businesses will always compete in a continuous race for success.

It is essential to show the results when raising funds and building relationships with companies. The key performance indicators (KPIs) will help determine an NPO's goals in such cases. Therefore, one should use a language of numbers, results, and achievements if one would like to form long-term relationships with companies.

For example, a good project result is “ten organized workshops”. However, it is not certain that this result will be great for business and will motivate investors to donate. On the other hand, if the project result is described through achievements such as, “There were more than 150 teenagers from needy families in 10 workshops, and we raised $250K. As a result, 35% of participants got financial aid for college.” It sounds different, doesn’t it? So, business is always about performance indicators and achievements. And NPOs must cooperate with companies and involve them in social projects. That interaction of different values would contribute to developing a corporate culture and social benefits, raising the number of volunteers, and realizing new social programs in the county and state.

Also, NPOs connect with another group of stakeholders. The government and big foundations have the same thinking paradigms that define the relationship with them. Usually, every project proposal has a structure, set of requirements, and deadline. The foundations and government institutions are accountable for distributing funds, and that is why they value a clear reporting structure and transparency. Furthermore, it is essential to follow the structure of the project proposal and rules, keeping requirements for forms and deadlines. Also, NPOs must create monthly or yearly reports for these stakeholders according to requirements for forms and structure.

It is a paradigm of thinking too, which describes these values as hierarchical and bureaucratic systems. One may like to collaborate with government institutions or foundations - follow the rules and have time to wait for the result.

Similarly, the internal relationships have the same connections between values which can influence internal processes, projects, communications, and collaboration. Every team member will see different perspectives of the same situation, and one person will have different views of the same situation in various contexts.

So, when a non-profit forms a project team or involves volunteers, it is better to remember that everyone is different. For example, one person may need rules and instructions, another person may be results-oriented, and another person may like to have equality in the community.

NPOs try to understand and respect everyone and do not force anything on anybody. Therefore, instead of focusing on results and achievements, they focus on processes and relationships.

Our world is changing, and nonprofit organizations must be ready to see and accept the polarity within the organization, and to build their strategy based on the need to be flexible and spontaneous. At this level of the development of values, people and organizations have more opportunities to build a more developed and productive relationship through the prism of convergence of the paradigms of thinking and values.

A problematic situation cannot be solved on the same level in which it was found, and NPOs must climb to a new level for making decisions and solving social problems. This would be leadership based on values: speaking to each person using the paradigm of thinking that they can understand. As a result, this can affect donations and project budgets for realizing new social projects and programs.

CLASS can help NPOs find a way to step up to a new level of flexibility and to show them new opportunities for the development of their organizations. CLASS consultants can help nonprofits with formulating a strategic plan, an organization design, key performance indicators, a volunteer development strategy, and other business consulting services. If you would like to know more, you can read our case studies here and testimonials here.


The CLASS Consulting Group is a trusted advisor to the board of directors and senior leadership of the bay area nonprofit organizations. It is a boutique management consulting firm headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area that provides consulting services to senior management and board of directors of nonprofit organizations and offers community leadership opportunities to professionals.

Since 2002, CLASS volunteers have been assisting nonprofit organizations in the West Coast and supporting the communities in which we all live and work. Learn more about our mission and story.



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