At the start of a new year, a time of change, I think about how organizations can best tackle leadership transitions.
When it is time for a top executive to leave, succession issues become pervasive within a nonprofit. The process of grooming possible successors can be divisive, often creating a distraction. Senior staff tend to handicap the internal horses and align with the contender they think will get the job. As the various scenarios play out, lower level managers hold back making decisions based on whether they think the odds-on favorite will like what they want to do next.
It can be difficult to find a good candidate from outside your organization who adds value and so promoting from within is often the preferred approach. If a single internal candidate distinguishes themself, has a vision for the future that the board thinks makes sense, and has the respect of the staff, the transition can be very smooth.
Conversely, an external candidate can bring new energy and a new vision, which might be just what the organization needs to advance into its next lifecycle. But the transition might not be as smooth.
A change in the top executive leadership is a high-risk/high-reward moment for any organization. Face the elevator door, and position yourself to tackle this critical decision.
- Is your nonprofit confronting succession issues this year?
- How will your organization manage the challenge of selecting the most promising candidates?