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3 Critical Components of Leadership Development


By Dr. Kent R. Wilson

There is no absence of opportunities today for nonprofit leaders to find resources to help them in their leadership development. There are seminars, workshops, conferences to attend, books to read, mentors to meet with, and groups to join. But are some forms of leader development more effective than others?

A national foundation wanted to find an answer to that question a few years ago, and commissioned a study of all of the major nonprofit leadership development programs around the country. Their results were definitive:  “[Nonprofit] leadership development approaches holding the most promise to improve organizational performance share three important characteristics: they are collective, contextual, and continuous.” (Kathleen Enright, Investing in Leadership: Volume 2, Inspiration and Ideas From Philanthropy’s Latest Frontier, Washington DC: Grantmaker’s for Effective Organizations, 2006). What did they mean by “collective, contextual, and continuous”?

  • Collective- The leadership programs are designed to nurture a collective leadership with more than one person involved and all learning together.
  • Contextual– Rather than studying case studies or hypothetical examples, the leaders embraced “action learning” and were able to bring their own issues, challenges and opportunities to the learning experience.
  • Continuous– Even though there is value in the one-time seminar or training, continuous learning involves ongoing support and structures month after month.

When Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) sat down to design a new nonprofit leader development process, they realized that a model for leader development that has been working for over 60 years in the for-profit sector had all of the three elements mentioned above. Peer advisory groups are collective (a group of people learning together), contextual (the content of learning is what each member brings to the table), and continuous (groups commit to meeting month after month).

So why not take a proven model and bring it into the nonprofit sector? Hence the creation of Leader2Leader (L2L), a peer advisory group learning environment for nonprofit executives.

Inspired after months of visiting various ministry leaders across the nation and hearing their expressed need for community and accountability, this new experience is designed to connect like-minded and like-hearted leaders who share similar positions in similar sized organizations.

L2L is a covenant peer advisory group of C-level business and nonprofit executives who meet monthly for the purposes of mutual support, problem solving, and accountability in order to become world-class leaders of life-changing organizations. These groups work on the principle that more brains are better than one; that the isolation and loneliness every executive leader feels can be overcome to produce exceptional results.


Kent Wilson (PhD) is a business practitioner and nonprofit leadership specialist. After running  companies for 30 years, he now serves as an executive coach with Vistage International and the Program Manager for Leader2Leader, CLA’s peer advisory program for nonprofit executive . 

leader-2-leaderTo learn more about the Leader2Leader groups, to see if you qualify, and to learn if there is an L2L group in your area. If you are interesting in leading one of these groups – training will be conducted at the 2014 CLA Conference in Dallas, April 14-16.  The group facilitator application is available online!



What is Christian Leadership Alliance?

Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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