Similiar leadership tools, nonprofit management and Restorative Justice.

I’m working on a PhD in Nonprofit Administration, Capella University.  Taking a course on Nonprofit Leadership. I am starting year 7 as a nonprofit Executive Director, and learning a great deal from my coursework.

As you know, I see things through the lens of my passion for Restorative Justice.  So I’m sharing with you some of the leadership tools and areas I see organizational leadership, especially in the nonprofit sector, mimic Restorative Justice.

Defining vs Thinking about.  Leadership, like Restorative Justice can have many definitions.  Authors in the course text encourage mega-theory or approaching leadership as how you THINK about it.  This reminded me that you can have many different definitions of Restorative Justice.  Three Pillars, 5 “R’s”, there are various definitions, but the overarching “thinking” about Restorative Justice is key.  It is a philosophical approach  – – and the link to leadership is that both require skills at taking a framework and applying it to a concrete situation.*

Recently asked about my agency resource, my response “the power of the human spirit”.  A look of confusion on the interviewers face and I explained, with concrete situations, how and why that is.  Restorative Justice uses storytelling, SCVRJP volunteer storytellers are coached and supported in Restorative-Storytelling.  I explained how people are impacted by hearing stories directly.  It takes the human spirit to heal.  It takes human spirit to move ahead to be a better and different person.  The lessons of the heart are the ones that shape who we are.

I have always promoted that as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is healing.  No one definition, no one process for grief.  I was watching PBS on Tuesday, Elusive Justice.  The narration began to explain that there are as many definitions of justice, as there are crime victims.  That spoke to me about the individual experience of being a victim.  “No one definition”, is a way of thinking about victims, survivors, individuals.

I’ve experienced Restorative Justice to work best, when I give a person complete room and freedom, a blank slate to express and have experiences of loss, grief and healing.  Being non-judgmental in the presence of another allows them expression and someone bearing witness to validate their experience.

Leadership as non-judgmental as Restorative Justice.  From the article “The Termite Theory of Leadership”, quoting Margaret Wheatley:

All life resists being bossed around.

The article goes on to share more Wheatly-ism, in that as managers (and I believe in Restorative Justice), we need to remember “life’s great imperatives”.  These imperative, which I would also call “Universal Truths” include:

  • being free to recreate OR preserve ourselves
  • form relationships
  • invent new ways of doing things
  • be unique
  • find meaning in what we do

Wheatly explains that imposing structure results in resistance.  I share these examples as a demonstration that Restorative Justice requires us to work within an oxymoron: free-form.  The freedom that people have individual experiences – the framework & form of theory.

I learned leadership takes courage & responsibility*.  Restorative Justice takes both courage & responsibility.  It takes courage to do a practice that is counter-intuitive to most.  It takes courage to bear witness to crime, trauma, grief & loss.  It takes courage to lead a nonprofit and not know where your salary will come from!  It takes courage to lead, it takes courage to heal.  (well others heal themselves you provide the form).

The responsibility is to have your mission enacted, not just espoused.  Phillis* points out that without leadership missions are intended but not realized.  I do all I can to consistently reflect the SCVRJP mission of peace & belonging. I frequently fall short of my “ideal self”, but I take on the responsibility as a leader to do this.  Restorative Justice work also requires a responsibility (so many that’s a different post).

The last noted similarity is taking intentions & aspirations to choices & actions*.  To enact your mission (restorative justice or other) it takes the execution of policies, activities and allocating your resources wisely.  I believe in parallel process, comparing things side by side, being congruent in who you are and what your values are.  Consider your Restorative Justice work, are you aligned?  Are your outcomes (intentions & aspirations) reflected in your decisions & behavior (choices & actions)?


*Phills, James A.. Integrating Mission and Strategy for Nonprofit Organizations.

Cary, NC, USA: Oxford University Press, 2005.