Take 5 with a NELA Fellow – Bethany Housman

The Nonprofit Executive Leadership Academy Program is a year-long leadership program for female nonprofit executives that includes networking with other nonprofit professionals, access to training and professional development on executive skills in social change leadership, and a chance to receive strategic support and coaching. This Take 5 series will allow us to get a closer look at our NELA Fellows as they offer insight into their experiences as Nonprofit Executives. Want to hear even more about the career  journey of our fellows? Join us for our Social Change Career Series where our fellows and other nonprofit leaders share their career path to executive leadership as well as what inspires them to create social change. Visit http://sisgigroup.org/careerseries to register.

Bethany Housman

Director, Promise Corps

Sparked by her disaster relief work post-Hurricane Katrina, Bethany Housman’s passion for National Service and volunteerism is rooted in advocating for equity in the field of education. As the Director of PromiseCorps, Philadelphia Bethany is dedicated to creating social change by positively impacting the lives of youth and cultivating future leaders.

One Word to Describe Your Takeaway From the NELA Leadership Institute 2017.

1. What is your leadership style?

My leadership style is most often described as direct. I've worked very hard in my career to also allow it to be described as supportive. Leading requires much more than just pointing towards a direction; there is a balance between pointing and getting others to also point with you -- finding this balance is something I'll be working on for a long time. 
I've learned over time that I am not an overthinker. I do not need to analyze stats or consider scenarios. I'm very comfortable taking responsibility for decisions I make but I've had to learn and develop that over time. I do like to warn my team about this aspect of my leadership, while I'm comfortable making quick decisions I do take the time to gain perspective from others when possible.  
I need to work on some aspects of my leadership style. I overcommunicate, repeat myself and have reminders set to remind myself to set reminders. I also repeat myself.

2. What inspired you to participate in NELA?

I was inspired to apply for NELA when I learned it was a year-long commitment with other individuals from across the country in similar roles as myself willing to learn from one another. The time commitment seemed perfect to be able to get to know and learn from others and be able to keep the program open to more and more participants each year. It's also worth noting that there isn't a great amount of non-profit specific support like NELA. I appreciate the recognition that a non-profit executive deserves its own group of thought partners to collaborate with.  


3. What has been one learning, takeaway or "aha" from your experience so far as a NELA Fellow?

Being an executive leader can be very lonely when you feel the weight of your responsibility to your mission and the desire to keep your team motivated and protected from any challenges you can possibly prevent. It's easy to feel as if you shouldn't reach out to another leader because we're all struggling in similar ways. I falsely assumed a majority of executives had the same strengths and growth areas in common. However, I've discovered the opposite is true! After speaking with others who want to enhance their skills with technology and another group who want to address staff retention issues I realized that being an executive leader isn't a checklist of experiences and strengths; it's much broader and more inclusive than I thought!  

4. How do you believe NELA addresses issues pertaining to women and leadership in the nonprofit sector?

 I think NELA recognizes that there aren't a lot of safe spaces out there for women leaders to collaborate and share best practices and admit challenges. Any organization or group that provides a safe space for women to collaborate and share is filling a large void that exists in the workplace -- in the non-profit sector and others.

5. Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in one day being in an executive role in the nonprofit sector?

Sure! My two biggest pieces of advice are first to explore as many different departments and roles as possible while you're working at any non-profit or even a for profit company. Collaborate on a project with the finance team, seek out the communications team and learn about their day to day and of course make a genuine connection to any C-suite staff at your office. Just as it's important to become a well rounded human with a variety of life experiences, the same need exists to become an executive leader.
Lastly, executive management isn't only about course correcting and putting out fires and motivating a team towards success. It's important in an executive role to invest a great amount of your time building relationships with everyone inside and outside of your office. There are lots of informal meetings over coffee you need to have, working lunches and events to attend to make sure you're staying connected to many different people. You have to be self aware enough to know whether or not that aspect of the work will also keep you motivated.  


Bethany Housman

Bethany graduated from St. John’s University with a B.A. in Communication Arts followed by a graduate degree in Sociology at St. John’s and a graduate degree in Urban Education at Temple University.  

After a short stint with Z100 radio station in her undergraduate years, she decided to continue her education in Sociology and work on issues affecting communities. She traveled to France, Germany, Panama, Canada and a variety of states for different projects. During the completion of her graduate degree she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana after a 3-week volunteer effort supporting disaster relief turned into her relocation. Bethany spent 2 years as the Program Director for City Year Louisiana, managing the New Orleans and Baton Rouge programs and eventually launched City Year New Orleans and continued as a Sr. Program Director. Bethany relocated to City Year Philadelphia in 2012 to be closer to her family. While working on her graduate degree at Temple she became an Operations Coordinator for a national charter organization and upon completion of her degree joined the Promise Corps team.  

Bethany is a Cross-Fitting vegetarian and an avid New Orleans Saints fan. She can regularly be found in Roxborough, Philadelphia with her wife, their 2 cats (Senor Julio & Peyton Manning), retired greyhound (Luna) and mini-pitbull (Liberty)!

Bethany is a 2017 Nonprofit Executive Leadership Academy Fellow with the SISGI Group

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