7 New Nonprofit CEO Success Mindsets

Start Strong: Lessons from New Executives

7 New Nonprofit CEO Success Mindsets

I contacted 60 new nonprofit CEOs this spring to learn what surprised them in their first months.


If you’re a new executive, seeking a position, or have been at the job for years, I bet you’re curious about what they discovered and if you can benefit from their wisdom.


Read on. You won’t be disappointed. Ahead you’ll find insights to apply to your work to be more efficient and effective. I’ve organized their perceptions into seven tactics with an explanation and an example.


#1. New Nonprofit CEO Advice: Set Realistic Expectations


Expect constant day-to-day decision-making.


You’ll encounter a slew of unknowns; interviews never cover everything.


Embrace the work it takes. You’re not doing it wrong if it’s you’re not done by five.


Being a new CEO is like raising a child—the first year is tough. In the second year, you get into the flow.


If possible, take a vacation before you start.


Congratulations. Your board hired you to do great things. “Take care to remember your limits,” your peers advise. When you arrive at the new position, you’ll probably find a lengthy task list waiting. One CEO encountered a collection of delayed facilities projects needing immediate care. A second stepped into a grant’s deliverable scramble.


As a new CEO, you’re in danger of setting unrealistic expectations.


To go fast soon, slow down now. Let me translate this advice into a measurable specific: Reduce your initial goals by 50 percent to allow for back-burner issues.


For the rest of the insights, download the study report here.


Are You Ready to Be a Nonprofit CEO? Find out. Listen to this podcast.