So, what do you do?

What does the MAF president do?

Someone recently asked me this question, which made me wonder about the perceptions that people hold of those in nonprofit leadership positions, versus the reality.

John speaking at AirVenture.

John speaking at AirVenture.

The title President and CEO sounds quite glamorous. One might imagine that the leader of a global organization like MAF spends a lot of time in exotic locations meeting high-powered people, staying in comfortable hotels and eating at the best restaurants. And one expects that the president of an aviation organization flies to these meetings in his or her private jet. Such an exciting life it must be!

The reality is far less interesting.

As the president and CEO of MAF, I do indeed travel a fair amount to exotic locations and meet powerful people, but I fly on commercial air carriers. MAF’s own airplanes are busy serving those in need, or else being used to train our pilots. Like most travelers, I spend a lot of time in airports and reasonably priced hotels, working on my laptop computer between commitments, connecting via Skype or iphone. I also read a lot of reports, research papers, and books. I attend many, many meetings. I spend much time in prayer.

All of this is in pursuit of three important things:

1. Keeping MAF aligned with its mission. Our mission is to share Jesus’s love with isolated people using aviation and technology. There are so many needs in this world that it would be easy to head down other paths, becoming fragmented in our focus. “Mission creep” could set in. But God has clearly shown MAF that this is how we must serve—this is the niche we fill. The president is responsible for keeping the organization aligned with its mission.

2. Strategic planning. How do we minister and fulfill our mission when the world is changing so rapidly? What must MAF do to meet the needs of the isolated people and the organizations we serve? MAF’s leadership team spends a lot of time pondering these questions and discussing them with stakeholders from within and outside the organization. We assess needs and develop plans to meet those needs. The president is responsible for developing strategic plans and aligning the right people to manage and lead the organization to effectively fulfill its mission.

3. Developing Relationships. Perhaps the most important thing that I do as president and CEO of MAF is develop relationships with people. Generous donors, MAF staff members, church and community leaders, those with whom we collaborate and who use our services, or leaders and members of other ministry organizations … interacting with people, spending time with them, listening to their stories and seeing their hearts … this is the most significant thing I do. After all, it is because of the people and their need for Jesus that MAF exists.

That’s what this president does. It’s a lot less glamorous than one might imagine, and much more challenging. I am so grateful to God—my president and CEO—for his constant presence, for how he walks beside me on this path.

So, what do you do?

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