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Effective Leadership for Women of Faith By Marilyn L. Donnellan

Ten Keys to Effective Leadership for Women of Faith

I have struggled most of my life with religious and culturally imposed challenges to my leadership.  While a Christian High School student and then at Bible College, I discovered my spiritual gifts were exhortation, administration, and leadership.  But those gifts seemed to oppose the teachings on women’s role in the conservative churches and schools I attended.

Multiple times God tried to show me His love was not dependent on how and where I used my spiritual gifts, but I refused to believe it. I thought the only places I could use my spiritual gifts were within the church or the mission field.  I had to be figuratively hit over the head several times before I understood my spiritual gifts could be used anywhere.  After repeated rebuffs from the faith-based community, I used my gifts within the nonprofit sector.

I learned these ten practical keys to effective L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P. techniques the hard way.


Never stop learning. You will never know everything there is to know about your chosen field.


Six core elements in any nonprofit must be implemented with excellence:  administration, board and volunteer development, marketing, community involvement, programs, and resource development. Too much emphasis on one element can weaken the rest.


A leader with attitudes of appreciation and thanksgiving will be more apt to achieve excellence in every facet of her personal and professional life.

Decisive Decision Making

Good decision-making ranks right up there with critical and logical thinking. Do not second-guess yourself.

Engagement with Others

Get involved in mentoring and encouraging others in leadership. You will not only learn a lot but support those moving into leadership.

Relieve Stress

Consciously focus on ways to handle stress. Being a leader is stressful. Learn how to deal with it.

Spiritual Gifts

 If you do not know what your spiritual gifts are, find out. Then get training in how to use them. Do not waste time wishing you had different gifts. They are called “gifts” for a reason. You do not get to pick which gifts the Holy Spirit gives you.

Have Thick Skin

No matter how good you are as a leader, there will always be those who are jealous or who will try to tear you down. Develop alligator skin to bounce unfounded criticism off of you, while being thoughtful in your analysis of negative comments.


Be broad in scope in every aspect of your leadership. Don’t limit where you get information or from whom you get it. Surround yourself with different viewpoints.

Promote Yourself

We are taught to be humble as Christians. However, as women in leadership, we tend to take that to the extreme. Know your strengths, and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.  She that tooteth not her own horn, it shall not be tooted!


Marilyn L. Donnellan, MS, has over 35 years of experience as a nonprofit CEO, consultant, and trainer. She is an internationally known author of over 60 books, guides, and training videos.

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