Written by Melinda Muth, Chair of the Australian Scholarships Foundation

Why do we need to recognise our leaders through awards? Because leadership matters – leaders set the tone.

In the companies I’ve dealt with directly – as well as others I’ve discussed with colleagues – there’s one factor that is far and away most critical: the tone at the top is established first and foremost by the actions of the leaders in top management.

Non-profits and those who lead them are often held in high regard by the public, partly because they have chosen to dedicate themselves to working for the public good rather than profit-making. In my experience, due to the nature of non-profit work, being part of a non-profit leadership team evokes higher expectations of trust, and with those high expectations comes great responsibility.

The evolution of attitudes in the community about the conduct of all organisations has heightened expectations of the role leaders play in shaping the conduct and culture of their organisations.  There is plenty of evidence that demonstrates that a positive tone impacts the workplace environment which in turn creates dramatic benefits for employees, employers and organisation effectiveness.  

There is plenty of evidence that demonstrates that a positive tone impacts the workplace environment which in turn creates dramatic benefits for employees, employers and organisation effectiveness.  

Melinda Muth, Chair, Australian Scholarships foundation

Engagement in work is associated with feeling valued, supported and respected.  Leaders who set a positive tone make a positive difference.  We want to recognise the positive difference that non-profit leaders make to their organisation and to our society.  They may not receive the highest pay but they do deserve just as much recognition.  They deserve to feel valued, respected and supported. 

Leaders have a significant impact on the lives of their staff and their stakeholders.  They inspire, motivate and empower people to achieve great things, while poor leaders do the opposite.  Leaders have a huge impact on how employees feel. A telling brain-imaging study found that, when employees recalled a boss that had been unkind or lacking in empathy, they showed increased activation in areas of the brain associated with avoidance and negative emotion while the opposite was true when they recalled an empathic boss.  And this is why the topic of leadership is inherently interesting to so many of us.  We are social creatures with a natural curiosity for understanding how leaders create success and influence others, therefore role models of good leadership are fundamentally important. Many people look up to leaders and seek to learn from them in order to apply those lessons in their own lives. 

Leaders are role models who provide inspiration and guidance to those who aspire to become effective leaders themselves.  When it comes to leadership, role models provide valuable insights into the skills and behaviours necessary to guide others toward achieving a common goal.  Role models of good leadership promote positive values and standards of behaviour within organisations and society.  By demonstrating integrity, accountability and a commitment to ethical behaviour, leaders can create a culture of trust and respect that encourages others to emulate them. Role models can help break down stereotypes and promote diversity and inclusion within organisations and communities.  When individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives are recognised as successful leaders, it can help to challenge preconceived notions about who can be a leader. 

Melinda Muth, Chair of the Australian Scholarships Foundation

Outstanding leadership in the not-for-profit sector

We especially want to recognise outstanding leaders in the non-profit sector to:

  • celebrate their achievements in order to motivate and inspire others to follow in their footsteps, to get involved and make a difference in their communities.
  • promote best practice by highlighting the strategies and approaches that have been successful for non-profit leaders so that others can learn from them and apply the learning in their own work. 
  • demonstrate high standards – when people see leaders who are operating with integrity and achieving positive results, they are more likely to hold themselves and others to the same high standards.
  • showcase the work of leaders in the non-profit sector who are helping to build trust and credibility in our communities.  When people see there are effective leaders working to address important issues, we hope they will be likely to support and engage with non-profit organisations.
  • advance the sector and attract resources to it.  We hope that recognising outstanding leaders and making the quality of their work known to others can help attract resources, including funding and partnerships to non-profit organisations.  Donors and partners want to support organisations that are led by effective and innovative leaders.

Good leadership is critical for success and progress, and nowhere is this more important than in non-profit organisations whose work contributes to developing a better society.  We want to elevate and celebrate the contributions that outstanding non-profit leaders make to Australian society. 

By celebrating the achievements of non-profit leaders, we can create a stronger and more effective non-profit sector, one that is better equipped to address important social and environmental challenges important to us all.

Award categories – 2023 Not-For-Profit Leadership Awards

There are six award categories, with a total of ten awards in 2023, including:

  • Outstanding Leader*
  • Outstanding Emerging Leader*
  • Outstanding Leadership in Talent Growth*
  • Outstanding Education Provider
  • Outstanding Scholar
  • Outstanding Leadership in Wellbeing Governance*.

*There will be two awards in these categories for leaders currently working with organisations and/or organisations with annual revenue of over $3 million, and under $3 million.

Read more full details here.