Celebrating International Women’s Day: Five Lessons from Not-for-Profit Leaders

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by | Mar 6, 2018 | Blog | 0 comments

As a leader within the not-for-profit sector for over 15 years now, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many incredible women. In celebration of International Women’s Day, I share here some of the key approaches that I have learned from these strong and smart individuals. I have found these practices to be essential in my own development as a leader – and as a woman.

1) When contemplating change, consider the importance of over-steering the boat to alter the course.

As a sailor, I’ve mulled on this analogy many times. When faced with a major change of course out on the water, I’ve seen what’s required of the skipper to set this new course. I’m naturally a more facilitative leader, who strives to gradually, and diplomatically, bring everyone along. In 2002 Vantage Point began a shift to re-orient our mission to build strong leaders and strong not-for-profit organizations. The Executive Director who was at the helm demonstrated the importance of over-steering, and not necessarily being able to bring everyone along.

2) In facing important decisions, ask yourself what each option makes possible, and for whom, while also acknowledging the worst that could happen in each case.

This practice, an aspect of Creating the Future’s Catalytic Thinking, has been essential to both my personal and professional decisions and I encourage you to try it out. I have also learned the benefit of framing “no” decisions as saying “yes” to another opportunity.

3) Start your day with a positive intention

It’s been a busy start to 2018 here at Vantage Point and I’m definitely aware of the “stretch” I’m experiencing. Starting each day with a positive intention has been tough. I’m sticking with it, however, as the simple practice of focusing on one positive thought or aspiration for the day truly brings out the best in me at home and work.

4) As leaders contributing to shaping and developing high performing cultures, get used to being a broken-record.

I’ve been constantly reminded of the importance of consistency by the Executive Directors I have had the privilege of working with here at Vantage Point. A strong culture at Vantage Point, with a commitment to abundance and people, has come through leadership that is comfortable persevering through challenges and making space for the many conversations required to assure board and staff are aligned (and re-aligned!) at every turn. I have seen the measurable outcomes of this leadership including demonstrated growth in mission impact.

5) Once in a while, ask yourself, “would I rather be somewhere else”?

I have committed both work and volunteer aspects of my life to the not-for-profit sector. To assure I’m still receiving energy from all that I put in, every once in a while, I intentionally ask this question. On occasion the answer is going to be “yes – I’d rather be doing…”. But for the most part, even when I’m feeling challenged, the answer is actually “this is exactly where I want to be”.

What meaningful practices have women in your life passed to you? Please share them with us in celebration of all the women that make this sector amazing to work in and a force within our communities. If you are looking for ways to pass along your skills and expertise, check out the current volunteer positions at www.govolunteer.ca.


Thank you to the amazing women that passed this advice on to me:

Colleen Kelly, former Vantage Point Executive Director
Denise Baker, Vantage Point Executive Director
Martha Sales, Coach and Founder of Achieve Your Mark, Vantage Point Knowledge Philanthropist & Board Member
Tammy Robertson, President, Professional Coach and Author, Work Heart Consulting
Hildy Gottlieb, Co-Founder, Creating the Future



Maria Turnbull

Maria Turnbull brings over 20 years of leadership experience in staff and director roles within the not-for-profit sector, both here in Canada and in the UK. With a BA in International Relations and MBA, Maria is a skilled facilitator and consultant in board governance, organizational development,…

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