“Mild audacity” and leadership lessons (Audio)

We are interviewing authors of intriguing leadership and nonprofit texts to showcase more recommendations and best practices. Join us for our final installment of an interview with Deirdre Maloney, author of “The Mission Myth.” She talks about the importance of telling it like it is and her new book, “Tough Truths: The Ten Leadership Lessons We Don’t Talk About.”

In the interview, Maloney discusses her comprehensive book about “building nonprofit momentum through better business.” Maloney is now the founder and president of Momentum, a consulting firm, after serving a seven-year term as Executive

Director of the Colorado AIDS Project. This book compiles advice from her experience as an executive director. She covers the most important aspects of running a nonprofit organization through her four M’s (management, money, marketing and measurement) while supplying tips and pitfalls for the seasoned executive.

She stresses the importance of building systems to run organizations effectively because if these systems are neglected while passionately following the mission, then we cannot “do good well.” Maloney tries to support this

tough leadership position and is honest about how she learns from her mistakes. “Mild audacity” describes her style.

Listen to Deirdre Maloney’s own words in her final installment and see more on “The Mission Myth.”


Kris Rutledge: In your bio at the end of “The Mission Myth,” it says you are “known for saying things others won’t say,” which is a direct quotation. How has this affected the tone and content of your book?

Deirdre Maloney: It is the tone and content, I think. I say my personal brand, whether it’s my books or my blog or when I speak, is “mild audacity.” That means that people need to just say things sometimes. People need to say that if you’re a nonprofit executive director or a nonprofit supervisor or a nonprofit board member who’s appropriately fulfilling your fiduciary responsibility, you’re not going to be liked by everybody. In fact, you might be pretty unpopular. It’s not a popular thing to say, so we don’t say it because we’re nice people and we don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings. But if people had leveled with me more or if I had heard more of these messages coming in, I wouldn’t have felt so alone. Frankly, sometimes I just felt like I was losing it. I would wonder, how is it that I’m the only person going through this, suffering through it alone because I was dealing with the passion and trying to make good decisions and nobody understood me. I put this together in a book because I can. I got through it to the other side. I’m no longer working for a nonprofit or reporting to someone. When I write my blogs or write my books, they’re really meant to level with people in a really relatable way and say, I’ve been through all this and frankly in some of my books and blogs, I’m still working on these lessons every day and I’m there with you. But, here’s the scoop: Not everybody is going to like you when you lead a nonprofit. That’s what you need to know. So, here’s how you handle that. I think once you put it up there it kind of pops the balloon of tension and it makes people feel like, O.K., that’s what I needed to hear, because I think we just tiptoe way too much around this stuff.

KR: Your new book is an honest one about leadership lessons, which you have touched on, that you’re not going to be popular, for example. Would you like to talk about your new book briefly?

DM: The new book is called “Tough Truths: The Ten Leadership Lessons We Don’t Talk About.” It’s the same kind of thing—it’s my mini-book and it’s based on my blog. My blog is also known for me coming out and saying what other people won’t say but in a nice and friendly tone and really just saying we’re all in this together. Here are some of the hard lessons I’ve learned.Really what I try to do is let everybody know I’ve messed this up first and here’s what I’ve figured out about it and maybe we can all move forward in a bit of a stronger way. “Tough Truths” is a mini-book, it’s about 100 little pages, and it’s based on some lessons we don’t talk about. They’re hard. As a matter of fact, when my husband read it, he said before I put it to print, “You need to add an intermission.” I said, “It’s 100 pages.” He said, “You need to add an intermission. People are going to get through this and it’s kind of heavy.” So, I did, which I’m glad because it’s two of my favorite pages in the book. I really think when people read it they just really appreciate how honest it is and how normal they feel after reading it and knowing they’re not in all this alone to become great leaders. What I say is we all know the obvious leadership lessons. We all know about time management and how to work with people and all that. But the greatest leaders out there know these lessons. This is what I’ve learned. So, when we all embrace these lessons, we can all strive for greatness and excellence in our lives, both inside and outside of work.

Both “Tough Truths” and “The Mission Myth” are available on Amazon, both electronically and in hard copy. I’m finding that people just really appreciate the tone and style. “Tough Truths” is meant to be read at a layover in an airport or on a flight and people appreciate how digestible it is.

KR: Thank you. I really enjoyed both your books. I do think their strength is the honesty. Again, they are available on Amazon and Kindle. Thank you for giving us this quick preview.

DM: One last thing—if you want to get more information or read an excerpt from “The Mission Myth,” you can also go to momentum.com., which is my website and has my blogs on it. Just if people want to do a little more exploring.

See also:

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability

The Nonprofit Business Plan: The Leader’s Guide to Creating a Successful Business Model

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

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