Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cultivating Leadership

In her piece posted on the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Rosetta Thurman provides a wake-up call to all those interested in the stability and sustained future of not-for-profit organizations. Thurman describes an industry in transition- one in which large numbers of baby boomers are preparing to retire from senior leadership positions, with a projection that 640,000 senior not-for-profit managers will be needed by 2016. Clearly the future of not-for-profits is contingent upon how the baton gets passed- but are young emerging leaders being adequately prepared for this responsibility?

Certainly this issue has relevance for the animal care industry, and mentorship plays a key role in fostering the interest and career development of young people and adults in career transition. Humane education and other activities provide a spark to those individuals who have an innate interest in animal issues, but are we doing enough to sustain and cultivate that interest? Those attracted to the animal care professions still have to wander around a bit to find resources to help them develop their careers.

The growth of formalized training and academic programs in our field has provided a vehicle through which to prepare individuals for a wide variety of animal care professions. Mentorship post-graduation is just as important to the continued success of these individuals. Converting concepts and theory into practice, and moving from the classroom to the real world can be a daunting experience. I have found lessons gleaned from mentors to be among the most important aspects of my career development. Mentorship will ensure that our talented emerging leaders will have the support and preparation needed to prepare them to lead the animal care professions into the next century- and that they don’t become lost and wander away to another profession.

Mentorship can occur in many different ways: from an informal conversation to more formal relationships. As Thurman points out, all junior employees, regardless of position, should be given an opportunity to step outside of their job descriptions and experience a leadership activity. Given its importance to the future of not-for-profits, mentorship should be seen as part of organizational mission, and not only something that’s done as an afterthought.

You can read Rosetta Thurman’s article, “Preparing the Next Generation of Nonprofit Leaders”, at

-Liz Clancy

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