Does Your Mission-Driven Organization Take Hostages?

Posted on October 27, 2021 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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I want to thank two exceptional leaders for the inspiration to write about this topic; Desiree Anderson, and Deborah Barker. 

In a recent Clubhouse conversation about Compassionate Accountability hosted by Tesse Akpeki, we got onto the topic of compassion (or lack thereof) and work cultures. Desiree and Deborah are both passionate leaders, both involved with mission-driven organizations trying to make a difference in the world. They both observed an unfortunate but all too common pattern in mission-driven organizations; perfectionism that creates cultures lacking safety and innovation. We see the same thing and address this dynamic regularly in our work.

The Upside of Mission-Driven Organizations

  • Purpose and passion to make a real difference in the world
  • Courage to call out injustice
  • Commitment to core values
  • Determination in the face of obstacles
  • Gives employees purpose

The Downside of Mission-Driven Organizations

  • Crusading, pushing beliefs
  • Being justified sometimes trumps being effective
  • Critical of people who don’t believe right, aren’t committed enough, or who aren’t doing it for the right reasons
  • Expecting perfection
  • Wielding authority
  • Us vs. them, good vs. bad, all or nothing mentality

What Kind Of Leader Takes Hostages?

Our research shows that a certain personality type is particularly drawn to create and lead mission-driven organizations. The Persister is one of six personality types in each of us, and it is the primary, strongest type in 10% of the population. The Process Communication Model teaches about all six types.

Persister Image The Persister type is dedicated, conscientious, and observant. They are committed to their values, and driven to make a difference in the world. When they are properly motivated and healthy, they can help manifest the upsides listed above. They lead with passion and vision, and understand the difference between making a point and making a difference.

Attacker MaskWhen this same type is not healthy and in distress, they develop unrealistic expectations for others, criticize people who don’t believe the right way, and begin crusading for their cause. In doing so, they lose sight of the goal, and create toxic cultures where perfectionism and compliance are more important than impact and effectiveness. They take hostages because people are afraid to disagree and don’t feel safe to make mistakes.

How To Stay Mission-Driven Without Taking Hostages

  • Take pride in your mission but don’t expect others share your level of passion.
  • Recognize that people do things for different reasons, and it’s OK if they accomplish the great work of the organization via different motivations. Here’s how to build trust with different personality types.
  • Beware of the pressure you put on yourself and others in the name of protecting them. You can’t ultimately protect people, but you can lead them.
  • Be honest about your hopes and fears. Find trusted advisors or peers in whom you can confide about your own imperfections.

We need mission-driven organizations with passionate leaders who are making a difference. We don’t need more hostages.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2021

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