Opinion

Hyper-independence as a trauma response, and how it manifests in nonprofit leaders

Written by Vu Le

It’s been nearly three years since I stopped being a nonprofit executive director. My skin looks healthier, my eyes less sunken and haunted, and I’ve started reverse-aging and now look like my kids’ father and not their grandfather. Best of all, I only wake up once or twice a year screaming “Cashflow! Payroll! NOooOOOO!!”

Being a nonprofit ED/CEO, or any other high-level leaders, can be rough. The systems and norms we have put in place often place unrealistic amounts of responsibility and stress on leaders. Combined with a capricious funding system that forces everyone into default survival mode, and we can understand how leaders burn out and why few younger professionals want to assume leadership roles.

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About the author

Vu Le

Vu Le (“voo lay”) is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the former Executive Director of RVC, a nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by developing leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities.

Vu’s passion to make the world better, combined with a low score on the Law School Admission Test, drove him into the field of nonprofit work, where he learned that we should take the work seriously, but not ourselves. There’s tons of humor in the nonprofit world, and someone needs to document it. He is going to do that, with the hope that one day, a TV producer will see how cool and interesting our field is and make a show about nonprofit work, featuring attractive actors attending strategic planning meetings and filing 990 tax forms.

Known for his no-BS approach, irreverent sense of humor, and love of unicorns, Vu has been featured in dozens, if not hundreds, of his own blog posts at NonprofitAF.com.