• Amy Clark

How Much Can Your Linchpin Hold?

Updated: Aug 30, 2018

photo credit:

A recent blog by Seth Godin addressed the concept of being the linchpin or the cog on the team, and it really got me thinking about how working in nonprofit organizations requires a unique balance of skills, abilities, and heart.

When workloads are consistently heavy, we often become cogs to keep the wheel moving and to make sure everyone has tasks to complete (check the box). It made me consider how the cog and wheel concept can work great for routine workflows, but how many nonprofits have the majority of their work fall into this category? Most nonprofit leaders are required to shift from executive reporting, to hands on helping a client; from negotiating contracts, to managing volunteer events; and a wide array of other role spanning activities, all in a typical day.

The linchpin imagery really resonated with me when considering how naturally running a nonprofit is complex, and in such settings, do we stop long enough to understand who are the linchpins holding the wheels to the axels?

a.) Is it the quiet leader on the team, working hard behind the scenes?

b.) Is it the executive burning extra hours day and night to keep the team afloat?

c.) The administrator who has such a wide breadth of knowledge that helps to keep it all together?

d.) The superstar volunteer team that is there, at the drop of a hat, to help when the need calls?

e.) The board members that devote hours of time to keep an eye on the bigger vision?

photo credit: By Thamizhpparithi Maari - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The truth is, it can be any one of these team members, or all of the above.

As leaders, understanding who the linchpins are in the organization could help us uncover where we need to address capacity and growth opportunities. Evaluating the workload of our team members that close the gaps could offer insights for needs to expand the team, disperse responsibilities, or train emerging talent to lead through increasing demands.

Some team members will always need to play the role of tying it all together by bridging departments, services and programs. Some linchpins will be at risk of breaking loose if we don’t address the oversized load they are carrying and potential capacity gap they are filling.

We are faced with an era of business where the cog ways of working are being changed by technology; impacting the intellectual, interpersonal and human touch roles that can affect how the linchpins hold organizations together. We can surely adapt to these changes in our business environments, and create agile nonprofits along the way, by taking time to examine how we do the work. Who are the linchpins for your organization? How much more can they hold?

Let's take a look ahead to Awaken the potential in your team.


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