You Cannot Lead Anyone When You Need to Be Led

While there is a need for more non-profit organizations, everyone is not qualified to start and lead a non-profit organization.  Too many people are talking about starting a non-profit organization for the wrong reasons.  The people who are talking about forming non-profit organizations for the wrong reasons need to be led.  They don’t need to be presiding over anyone.  Some of the erroneous reasons people are talking about developing non-profit organizations are as follows: (1) simply because they are unemployed; (2) they are using discourse about starting a non-profit organization for self-aggrandizement; (3) starting a non-profit organization is the only thing they can think of to do; and (4) they need something to boost their self-esteem and this augmenting of their self-esteem has nothing to do with helping the people the organization is supposed to be founded to serve.

You have to have some qualifications, experience, skills, and accomplishments to lead people.  Traditional qualifications, experience, skills, and accomplishments are not always requisite to being able to lead people effectively, but your qualifications, experience, skills, and accomplishments must be genuine.  You cannot be an effective leader of an organization by just randomly thinking you are qualified to be a leader of an organization.  Leading, starting, and managing an effective non-profit organization is not easy.  In fact, it’s quite challenging.  If you don’t have a true love for helping people, then don’t talk about starting a non-profit organization.  Starting an effective non-profit organization is not something you can just jump up and do.  It’s also deeply offensive to the strenuous and thorough work that leaders of effective non-profit organizations do to pretend like you are serious about starting a non-profit organization when you know that you are going to do it.

For those Black men who don’t have a true commitment to launching non-profit ventures that focus on mentoring young Black males, don’t play with the serious need of mentoring young Black males simply for the vain purposes you are toying with starting a non-profit undertaking supposedly for them.  The need to ameliorate the lives of disadvantaged Black males is far too important for people to be playing around with.  For those who are attention hungry and simply see talking about starting a non-profit organization for Black males or youth in general, you need to understand that our children are too precious and important for you to attempt to use them for your own selfish gains.

We all need good people in our lives to provide us with support.  Many authentic leaders are among us.  It is vital, however, for those who are not leaders to understand that they are not leaders.  You know when you are not a leader and you know when you’re not willing to lead or don’t have what it takes to lead.  Everyone was not created to be a leader—face it!  Just as we need leaders to be great leaders, we need followers to be great followers.  The work of great leaders is significantly buttressed when they are able to benefit from great followers.

When you find yourself experiencing daily bouts with self-doubt and self-pity, the harsh reality is you are not ready and fit to lead.  There’s nothing wrong with knowing when you need to be led and when you are not ready and/or capable of leading.  It’s always critical for human beings to seek and embrace the truth, for this is the essence of what “being real” is.  Sorry to break the much needed news to you, but you don’t become a leader just by calling yourself one and pretending like you are one.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison


  1. As a black male who works almost exclusively as a public servant, and is a budding career nonprofit professional, I agree wholeheartedly with this post. People in my community know that I am a nonprofit professional, have experience with nonprofit organizations, and they come to me with their ideas of “Starting their own nonprofit” (a term that I hate) and expect me to help. Instead I say one of three things:

    1.) Find somebody else who is doing that and lend your professional help to their organization, either by working for them or by….

    2.) Volunteering/Providing support to an organization with a mission that you identify with. Also,

    3.) Nonprofit over-saturation is real. What’s realer is the fact that if you mismanage your organization, you can do more harm than good.

    I think this is a very informative post and that some people who are striving to do good in their communities (some genuine, some not-so) should do themselves a favor and soul-search a bit before committing themselves to a nonprofit organization. It’s a lot of work. I’m proud to say that I do everything I can to DISCOURAGE people from starting nonprofits, especially when they’re not ready for the responsibility attached.

    Good post.

    1. Thanks! Great response! Your response offers many people some much needed words that they need to hear to help them to overcome their attention-seeking motivations for “desiring” to start non-profits. Thanks for reading and your response.

  2. We talk about this a lot about this in class. The over saturation of people wanting to start non-profits. People should really evaluate their mission, values and goals. They should access to see if there is a need. We have so much supply but not enough demand. I think starting something for the youth seems easy and looks good on paper. Why not start a club? Not everything has to be a non-profit organization.

    We can all give ourselves titles… Sad.

    1. Many of these people who pretend like they want to start non-profit organizations need to be looking for a local non-profit organization to help them with their deep self-esteem issues. I agree very much that they could start a club because it would have a greater likelihood to be successful. Thanks for reading and your response, Drew!

  3. I know we’re talking about non-profits but as a minister, I feel this message also needs to be shared with some of our churches as well. It bothers me when people start groups for young people for the sole purpose of feeling good about themselves or showing what they can do, when they could have shared their idea with the youth ministry. Kids need to be supported and devloped, not used. I see this happen a lot.

    1. I agree very much with you that much of what was stated in this piece is applicable across many of our churches across the nation. If people are going to do things for our youth, then those things need to be truly authentic and not simply be done for vain purposes. People should not be using our youth for their own selfish purposes. I’m happy to gain your perspective on this topic, considering you are a minister. I very much appreciate you for reading and your response!

  4. Bobby Bowtie said what I was going to say. I agree with this post whole-heartedly. There is nothing sadder than someone with a failed life and failed visions attempting to lead others. I think one of the motivations that you left out is financial advancement. I know too many people who have started non-profits and churches for the purpose of their own profit.

    Keep it coming AMD.

    1. Yeah, financial advancement is certainly one of the great motivations people have for starting a non-profit organization, but I’m not so troubled by that motivation per se. It’s when that motivation is not combined with a true commitment for the people the non-profit organization was created to serve. People should expect to make some money from their non-profit ventures, but money should not be the dominant reason for the creation of the non-profit organization. Thanks for reading and your response, Sean!

  5. Great post one again Antonio! Some people use this as only the sole opportunity to make a profit, and use the notion to help people as a smoke screen. We need our government to start investigating these non-profits diligently.

    1. Thank you! We certainly need to have the government to closely investigate non-profit organizations, which will send a strong signal to those who have a lack of a serious commitment to starting one to not even consider starting one. I appreciate you very much for reading and commenting.

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