Confronting the Obstacles III: Crisis-Leadership
By contrast, some senior sages feel that their major contribution has been not so much in building on the work of their predecessors and providing continuity. Instead, they help the organization to change directions by leading it out of difficult situations: financial crisis, aimless direction, failure of past leaders to confront hard realities. These senior sages move into a troubled organization because it is virtually on the brink of collapse; they bring their broad-based perspectives and skills to crises and breathe life into the organization by helping to renew and transform it.
Perhaps most important, the senior sage leaders help by bringing together organizational members around specific needs. Their capacity to focus is critical: “What are the three things we need to do over the next six months?” They also apply their organizational skills when helping to address a crisis: “How do we most effectively deploy the scarce resources we have to solve this specific problem?” And they help to create effective teams that can provide sustained attention to solutions that have been identified. Because many of the senior sages have substantial contacts within the community, these teams are often able to attract additional human resources that can be brought to bear in addressing issues. Thus, some senior sage leaders serve as founders while others serve as saviors of existing organizations—each working on behalf of the community’s welfare.
It is particularly timely that many senior sage leaders talk about the need to manage organizational crisis, for the citizens of Grass Valley and Nevada City live in a state that is itself in perpetual crisis. The difficulties facing California have come to mean that nonprofit organizations must attempt to fill voids left by the collapse of many municipal services. Clearly, there will not be sufficient governmental resources to respond to all, or even major, societal needs. This means that government leaders increasingly may be in the business of networking rather than directly providing all public social services. And for that to happen, these leaders must increasingly recognize the value that is inherent in the energy, resources, agility, and leadership which senior sage leaders can provide in these nonprofit organizations.
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