Nonprofits that are serious about their own sustainability will also be serious about planning for smooth and thoughtful leadership transitions. Planning for leadership transition should take into consideration not only planned transitions but also unplanned ones -- whether for staff or board leaders -- and sustainability also means cross-training staff so that important day-to-day functions will continue uninterrupted. Who is responsible for all this planning? The board development committee or "board governance" committee will generally focus on leadership succession at the board level, while staff is most often charged with identifying transition plans for staff leadership succession, whether planned or unexpected. However, because the board is ultimately responsible for oversight of the executive director, typically it is the board's role to initiate succession planning for the executive director.
Every nonprofit needs a plan to deal with an unexpected event, such as the unexpected departure of key leaders: Here's a Toolkit for drafting your own emergency succession plan. (Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City)
If your organization is facing the prospect of losing a leader, the future can look cloudy! Clear the air with a plan for leadership succession: Managing Executive Transitions: A Guide for Nonprofits, by Tim Wolfred guides nonprofits through a change in leadership and helps boards and executive directors handle leadership turnovers to set the nonprofit on a path to long-term success. TransitionGuides.com offers helpful resources, including template succession policies, as well as links to other publications on the topic of leadership succession and succession planning.
"The domain of leaders is the future. The leader's unique legacy is the creation of valued institutions that survive over time. The most significant contribution leaders make is not simply to today's bottom line; it is to the long-term development of people and institutions so they can adapt, change, prosper, and grow."
Source: The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes & Posner (2007)
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