Leadership qualities essential for modern NGO professionals

Dr Saumya Arora About Dr Saumya Arora

Dr. Saumya Arora is a development professional with cross-disciplinary experience in project management, resource mobilization, donor relationship management, community mobilization and project execution at the field level. She is currently working towards building fundraising and resource mobilization capacity of community-based organizations, apart from developing functional linkages with donors across the world.


NGO and development sector professionals work in difficult and challenging circumstances. With limited resources and constantly changing, complex and dynamic situations, an NGO professional has to be on toes all the time to adapt to the environment. Working in this sector demands dynamic personalities, leadership qualities and management aptitude and skills.

Do you have it in you to be a coolheaded, agile, highly professional and motivating leader? A leader can be a leader in his/ her own belief, it is not necessary to be at a high position to be one. Any person exhibiting leadership qualities is a leader.

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There are certain qualities that the NGO professionals must possess in order to make a mark in their work, while also to motivate their team to work for the betterment of the communities they serve. Here, we discuss some of these qualities:

1. Effective communicators:
Effective leaders are always good communicators, so is true in the case of NGO leaders as well. They know they have to deal with contrasting ends, like beneficiaries, donors, agencies, etc. and they are able to change their communication styles as per the audience. They get social and meet a lot of stakeholders, make networks and engage people for furthering the cause of organization.

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2. They have their eyes on the goal:
They dare to ask a lot of questions to their staff, donors, and other stakeholders. They have the courage to put the ultimate objective of the organization at the centre, and constantly work towards it. They understand that social change and development is not an overnight process, yet they chart a map and strive continuously towards organizational goals. They have a conscious eye on the question, Are we there yet?

3. Inspire and empower:
With their ideologies, passion, compassion and working styles, effective NGO leaders always keep inspiring others. Whether they are their own team members or donors or stakeholders, people look up to them as motivation and inspiration. They are thorough professionals and yet are compassionate towards people. They accept and enjoy diversity, be it within the team or outside the organization. They know that they are ethically responsible and accountable to their teams and even their beneficiaries. They motivate others also, to understand and behave in ethical manners, reflecting in the organizational policies, processes, and even day-to-day functioning.

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4. Take initiative:
Leaders are confident, pro-active, and they take initiative at their field of work. At organizational and work (field) level; they anticipate problems and act in time to correct the situation. This also applies to self-improvement they actively seek. They are always looking for opportunities for betterment of their own self and their teams. This makes them great team workers, and they can do it because they are focused on the larger goal. Their pro-active instinct also makes them identify opportunities and ways to make best use of them. Such people can truly be assets to the organization.

5. Believe in transformation:
Over and above all, their best quality is strong belief in transformation. They have full faith in their own work, the organizational objectives and goals and the means they take to achieve them. They are passionate towards the community, are sensitive and resilient humans, believe in the cause and work consistently towards it.

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