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Approaching Leadership Transition: 5 Things Every Great Board Does

Leadership transitions are an opportunity. They provide a chance to re-evaluate, reboot, and change course, if desired. With the right approach, your board can be well equipped to select a new leader that can take your organization where you want to go.

every great board

The Right Approach

The best approach to take with transition is a consultative approach. Too often boards get hung up on the steps, the process, and the method, when they should be shifting the conversation towards the idea of being open to options and exploring new ways to think about leadership. With a little proactive planning, leadership transition doesn’t have to be a terrifying topic.

Here are five things you should employ in your approach to leadership transition:

  1. Take a look in the mirror. It’s time to think strategically. This is an opportunity for your organization to take a deep look at who they are. Is this what you thought you’d look like? Do you like what you see? An organization might be slowly going off course without even realizing it. In re-evaluating your mission, values and objectives early on in the process, you can get clear on the type of organization you’re striving to be.
  2. Have a substantive conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions and engage board members in challenging conversations. This may be easier said than done, but it’s necessary. Speak with board members about their visions for the future and how they see their ability to make an impact. Discuss leadership options with respect to different challenges and goals. This is also a way to understand the strengths that different board members have and what they can bring to the table in creating a plan for the future. It’s also a chance to get clear on the roles and responsibilities that everyone has in planning for transition. The ultimate goal is to shift the dialogue from price and process to vision and value.
  3. Ask for help. For most organizations, transition is uncharted territory. And that’s ok! You don’t need to have the route completely mapped out, but you do need to at least know which direction you’re headed in and where you are hoping to land. The good news is that you don’t need to go at it alone. A consultant or coach can navigate for you, helping you reach the goals you can see on the horizon, but aren’t yet in plain sight.
  4. Take the long view. Approach leadership transition like you’re building a lasting relationship. What is it going to take for your leader to succeed long term? After all, you don’t want to be going through this process again two years down the line! Successful fits are built on creating and fostering partnerships between leader, board members, and external coaches or consultants.
  5. Understand that there are no “perfect” leaders. Unfortunately, you can’t just parachute in your perfect leader (but wouldn’t that be nice!). Your board may not want to hear that, but it’s true. Every leader is going to have strengths and weaknesses, but it’s about finding someone who has the potential to take you where you want to go. But that takes knowing where you want to go, and what you are bringing to the table as well. Prospective leaders can take an organization in many different directions, depending on their particular set of experience, expertise, and perspective. This is where all that time you spent discussing and planning for the future comes in handy. Bring choices to the board so that they have the power to choose which direction is the best route to take to achieve the vision you’ve set out for yourself.

Proactively Plan For The Inevitable

A Guide To Leadership Transition & Succession

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Successful leadership transition entails more than just hiring the perfect leader and handing over the keys. It takes the right approach and preparation on the part of the board. By understanding their roles and the ways in which they can support their new leader, a board can ensure long-term leadership from their new CEO.

Emily Hall

Emily Hall

Emily Hall, Olive Grove’s Founder & CEO, has provided strategic consulting services to thousands of community leaders, social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, board members, corporations, governments and philanthropists over two decades. She has enhanced the impact of organizations of every size, sector, stage of development, and mission focus, and helped individuals focusing their giving for maximum impact.