Toni PergolinMy Leadership Toolbox 

So…I was asked recently to describe my leadership style.  That seems like such a simple question, but in truth — I have several leadership styles.  And, during the turnaround, I had to pull them out of my leadership “toolbox” as needed for the situation at hand – as any good leader could.    

At times, my leadership style was collaborative and thoughtful, while other times it was quick and decisive.  As leaders we need to be connected but flexible. We set the vision, and build a strong and effective team to get it done.  We plan ahead, set the structure and watch key performance indicators. All the while, building and nurturing relationships with our stakeholders and our donors. It’s a balancing act that requires a range of skills.  

There are three Leadership Styles that I used during the turnaround:    

  • Servant Leadership is when a leader’s main goal is to serve the organization; a deep sense of responsibility takes hold and the leader remains committed to doing the best he/she can for all stakeholders.  It’s a leadership style that makes sense for nonprofit leaders.  
  • Transformational Leadership is when a leader creates and manages significant change by motivating and inspiring followers.  It’s about empowerment — giving people the information and tools they need to to get on board and take action in line with the vision.  It’s a leadership style that is critical when an organization is in crisis.  
  • Transactional Leadership is when the leader focuses on order and structure to set clear objectives.  Us leaders tend to oversee the organization from “the top of the trees;” but we also need to get down to the ground level to fully evaluate what is going on…seeing red flags so we can work together to address issues quickly.  As I say in the book, “Diving deep into the daily operation is certainly effective in exacting needed change, but it’s equally essential to know when it’s time to get back “to the top of the trees.”  

Today, in my day to day work, I like to think of myself as a leader who listens and makes decisions.  I know what I don’t know, and I have built my team with that in mind. They are opinionated and strong and I need that.  When dealing with a crisis, you don’t have the time to wait for everyone to agree, or wait even to get to a compromise. You are the person everyone is looking to to deal with the challenges, and you better have the right leadership style ready in your toolbox!    


Toni’s book, Too Important to Fail ~ Leadership Lessons for Nonprofits, has just been released on Amazon.  Check out her website at to learn more.  

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