Mission-driven organizations require a different breed of leader, Jim Morris believes. A leader’s commitment to mission is often the greatest determinant of an organization’s success or failure.
Jim knows this from nearly three decades in human resources, including 20 years as a consultant. So he didn’t intentionally go looking for more proof ten years ago when he co-founded a nonprofit.
Artichoke Music was considered an institution in Portland music circles. But after 40 years and with its business on the ropes, the store announced its closure. Rather than letting it quietly disappear, Jim led efforts to turn it into a nonprofit music school, store and venue. Its mission: building community through music, one heart a time.
“This has truly been a labor of love that has called on every single skill I have as a leader — and many I don’t have,” Jim says. “Seven years after starting on this work I can see a sustainable future ahead.”
‘I have to be able to think of my relationship to my client as we.’
Jim helped author Artichoke’s mission, a reflection of his deeply rooted belief in the power of community. In a world that feels increasingly more disconnected, Jim has experienced the power of people coming together in common purpose.
“The lens I use in all my work as a consultant and an organizational leader is community,” he says. “How can we make this workplace more of a community? How do we engage our community to fulfill our mission? How do we make our community more inclusive?”
Community = Cooperation and Collaboration
When organizations reach out to the community and find ways to build strong coalitions across the boundaries that usually divide us, great things happen. He first learned the power of coalitions when serving as Board Chair for Basic Rights Oregon in the contentious anti-gay ballot initiatives. We brought together communities of color, along with the faith community and business groups. Everyone had a stake in building strong healthy communities. We looked beyond our individual interests.
His consulting practice focuses on leadership development and durable collaboration. He’s convinced that capacity building depends on growing strong capable leaders and finding ways for groups to tap into their collective capacity.
“When I take on a new project with a new client I always start with two questions: Can I see myself as a part of this team? Is this a ‘we’ relationship?” Jim says. “I have to be able to think of my relationship to my client as ‘we.’ If I can embrace the mission I will be the best consultant you have ever worked with.“
And, who knows, maybe he’ll be inspired to write a song.
“I started playing guitar about eight years ago and writing songs soon after. I think I am pretty good at it. But I have not been able to find a way to share my songs with others,” Jim says. “My job involves public speaking and I am comfortable talking to groups of 100 or more. Yet when I try to perform my songs for others, I get tongue tied and nervous in a way that stops me cold.”
Proof that Jim is human. And in need of an organization that unties tongues.