Introduction to Managing Leadership Transition for Nonprofits: Passing the Torch to Sustain Organizational Excellence
- Feb 28, 2011
This is the dramatic problem that brought us to the subject of leadership transition. The more we looked, however, the more we saw rapid turnover and poorly managed transitions as manifestations of more general problems in nonprofit leadership, both professional and volunteer. And, because frequent turnover broadly stunts the stable development of leadership, we believe the whole nonprofit sector cannot grow as strong as it might without the emergence of skillful, experienced leaders.
All too often, the management approach to leadership turnover is rushed, remedial, and reactive. As an antidote, we will propose an approach that is careful, strategic, and forward looking. We emphasize the transformational potential of professionalizing the transition process. We are talking about good leadership, in general, not just good transition leadership. The model we have built for leadership transition, then, extends beyond the transition period and throughout the lifetime of a leader's tenure.
As we noted, nonprofit organizations have been proliferating at such a rapid rate that it has been impossible for leadership capacity to keep pace. The primary source of feedback to CEOs should be boards of directors. After all, their mandate is threefold. First is fiduciary responsibility: holding the executive accountable and providing feedback in the management of organizational finances. Second is policy and strategy—that is, the framing of the organization's mission, vision, and strategy and holding executives accountable for executing the strategic plans. Third, boards hire, fire, and manage the executive. This includes yearly performance reviews, but more importantly, it includes an ongoing dialogue on how well the organization, under the executive's leadership, is meeting its objectives.