Q&A with Nicole Lamoureux
Executive Director, The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics
Tell us about your leadership style and how this contributes to your organization’s success.
My leadership style is defined by three characteristics: communication, confidence, and collaboration.
Communication– I believe that to be a great leader, you not only need to talk, but also listen. Effective communication requires both. In my leadership, I actively share the story of our organization- and the clinics and patients who benefit from our work, exposing new audiences to the immense value of our nation’s free and charitable clinics. But I also listen- to the needs, desires, issues, and goals of our volunteers, donors, staff, and board- to gain a first-hand knowledge of our impact, and also of areas for improvement. Through this communications approach, I have been able to harness the great passion of our clinics and our army of dedicated volunteers for our goal of making affordable, quality health care accessible to all Americans.
Confidence- As a leader, I want to inspire confidence in my staff, the clinics in our network, their patients, and in partners and supporters. Inspiring confidence is an extension of being a good listener- allowing others to feel confident when they are empowered to share their ideas, opportunities, challenges, and passions freely, with no fear of repercussion. It also encourages my staff and my network to think creatively, create innovative programs, and form new and valuable relationships. Being a great listener also allows our nationwide network of stakeholders to have a sense of pride and ownership in the mission and vision of the organization.
Collaboration- Another important element of my leadership style is my role as a convener. By encouraging and building connections, we have been able to identify the commonalities that exist between our association and other organizations, partners, and individuals. When properly nurtured, these types of collaborations allow for teamwork, expansion of potential, idea sharing, and creative thinking – all of which can help further the mission and impact of our organization.
By implementing these “three c’s” – communication, confidence, and collaboration- the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics has grown from a small, grassroots organization to one that now works with and for 1, 200 clinics and their staff, and for thousands of volunteers and patients nationwide. This would not have been possible without the voices, opinions, and ideas of our clinics, staff, volunteers, and donors, and without their belief that they are a vitally important part of our family of Free & Charitable Clinics.
What advice would you offer to other nonprofit leaders?
Be passionate about your work and let others share their passions with you. As a leader, you need to be willing to listen- truly listen. Recognize that being a leader does not just mean being the person who makes the hard decisions. To be a leader, you must constantly be learning from and accepting advice from others around you. The perspectives of my staff, board, partners, patients, and network of clinics are critically important because they are all different from mine. Even more critical to me are the perspectives of our patients. The NAFC hosts up to three C.A.R.E Clinics (Communities Are Responding Everyday) each year. We don’t just plan the events: we’re on the floor talking to the patients, listening to what they need, learning from their experiences- and striving to make our work and the work of the country’s free and charitable clinics- meet each and every one of their needs. In our line of work, it’s the patients who should be dictating the services they receive- not the event planners. As a leader, you must accept counsel and change when necessary.
At the same time, as a leader, you have to embrace a vision for how your organization will grow to have the greatest impact on those you serve. Have big dreams and goals, but remain approachable. Inspire your staff to come to you with ideas: You would be surprised with how much you can learn and how much potential you can tap into through those around you. If you show your passion and excitement for the growth of your organization in your daily work, others will follow and work hard alongside you to accomplish those goals.
What does this award mean for you and your organization?
To receive the EXCEL Award would be an honor and accomplishment not just for myself and the organization, but would be a testament to the hard work and innovation of my staff, our volunteers, partners, and clinics.
From 2001-2007 the NAFC was a small organization that was managed by a very dedicated volunteer board of directors who believed that access to health care should be a right and not a privilege. In 2007, I was humbled and touched that the free and charitable clinic community welcomed me as the first full time executive director of the NAFC and that they allowed me to help tell the story of the compassionate health care that our clinics provide on a daily basis.
In a very short amount of time the NAFC has grown from $75,000 organization to a $2.5 M organization and without clinics we have helped millions of our neighbors and friends who do not have access to care. I truly have the best job in Washington DC, I am lucky enough to work for and with the best and brightest who encourage growth, compassion, and dedication. People are our priority, and there is no greater commodity than being the voice for and serving those in America that needs help.
To be considered for this award is simultaneously humbling and a huge honor because it shows that through hard work, perseverance, dedication, compassion, and a lot of love- growth and opportunities are possible. This award shows recognition for years of hard work while challenging us to continue to strive to be the best we can be in the future.