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Should Nonprofits Adapt to the E-Leadership Model?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Sharif Shamroukh 
January 24, 2022

Writing about leadership styles and introducing examples is not an unusual trend in publishing and research practices. Though, in this article, I would like to highlight a new leadership style that started to evolve over the past couple of years, especially with more developments taking place in the public sector and nonprofit management in particular.

Before I delve into details, it is essential to recap, in a straightforward form, that leadership is the ability of an individual, or a group of individuals, to influence others to accomplish specific tasks. Thus, over time, researchers were able to study in detail, the several designated styles of leadership, based on predetermined criteria.

For more than a decade, a new leadership style started to come to the surface and slowly leaders began to adapt to it—even though there were not enough studies to show complete adaptation to it. This new style is known as “e-leadership”. The definition of e-leadership, without going into any of its complications, meets the exact definition of leadership in general, with one addition to it, which is the process that is facilitated through the use of technology. Think back to when we first began to adopt the new trend of connecting by way of the latest technological platforms, which, by taking advantage of various social media platforms, created a new norm to socialize with others and build relationships. Similarly, the evolution of information technology solutions that started to spread around, becoming one of the fastest-growing trends, made it possible to rely more and more on technology to perform business tasks, and make remarkable progress. Leadership is no different from all levels of business and working ranks.

A decade ago, specifically in 2010, scholars Kahai and Avolio wrote a chapter titled “E-Leadership”in Leading Organizations, edited by Gill Hickman. The exciting thing about this chapter is that the authors highlight this new form of leadership, pointing to one important reason why e-leadership could become a more common style within organizations, based on the fact that information technology is providing more solutions and, therefore, it would be easy to find leaders working remotely while utilizing these new technological solutions.

Nonetheless, the critical point here is a matter of the technology itself, which provides the tools to lead others without compromising the quality of the outcome.

Take for example, over the past couple of years, when every organization on the planet was being affected by the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic, forced to halt their normal way of practicing activities. This obviously spread to all businesses, individuals, institutions and government agencies. Every breath of life was forced to adapt to a new norm, which motivated technological geniuses to turn the threats of the pandemic into opportunities for revolutionizing technological solutions to make businesses and all other activities run in compliance with the new norm. Therefore, we noticed that workshops, conferences, meetings, schools and universities demanded an adaptation for distance solutions to stay active in their services and perform businesses in a more compliant way, without compromising their duties and quality.

In turn, the pandemic added a second reason to start adapting to the new norm, pressuring the formation of this unique style of leadership. So, the increased communication solutions that the technology provided, combined with the new solutions it continues to provide, besides the overwhelming regulations that affected the face-to-face style of practicing duties due to the unprecedented circumstances of COVID, led to the formation of the recent phenomenon that is e-leadership.

The nonprofit sector forms a crucial player aside from private and government sectors. Therefore, since reliance on technological solutions is becoming more pressing in other sectors as a result of the new norm which the COVID era created, nonprofit organizations are encouraged to quickly join and adapt to this trend by dynamically maneuvering with newly formulated communication solutions. This will keep the nonprofits within the boundaries of social and economic advancements.

Let me conclude by stating that this transition is essential for nonprofit organizations to be successful, as the whole world is evolving towards communications technology, which has made connecting people simple, and has allowed access to essential activities virtually. There is no better time than now to start adapting to e-leadership and to keep up with all virtual solutions in order to make life easier and more effective.

Author: Dr. Sharif Shamroukh is a Senior Lecturer at the American Institute for Philanthropy Advancement and frequently writes about various public policy issues. Also, Dr. Shamroukh provides consulting services to nonprofit organizations covering a wide range of topics that help achieve their missions. Contact Dr. Shamroukh via e-mail: [email protected] or Facebook / LinkedIn / Twitter @DrShamroukh

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