Giving Compass’ Take:
• The General Service Foundation shares lessons and words of wisdom when transitioning leadership power and explains how it affects everything from board members to company culture.
• How does the changing of leadership affect foundation relationships with their grantees? How can board members help mentor new directors?
• Read about some lessons of leadership in corporate social responsibility and see how they compare.
Leadership transitions happen all the time in philanthropy, but we rarely talk about the challenges and lessons they reveal. For the most part, our inclination is to try to keep the internal dynamics of our institutions private and (often) separate from our grantmaking. But because organizational change happens to all of us, we have come to see leadership transitions as offering lessons that can be illuminating not just to us but to our grantees and colleagues in other organizations as well.
1. Expectations: Transitioning to new leadership is just the beginning.
Lesson learned: Prepare the board for change. As board chair, don’t assume your job is over or that it will get easier when you fill an executive position.
2. Culture: Change is hard because most change involves changing culture.
Lesson learned: Explicitly name culture changes as such and put them into a broader context of the culture you want to co-create.
3. Relationships: In your first year, focus on building relationships and establishing trust.
Lesson learned: It’s okay to go slow and focus on relationship building, which often requires time and patience. The bond between ED and board chair is a critical one, so bringing an intentional focus to that relationship is important. The foundation for a successful transition rests on creating strong internal relationships.
4. Internal Support: When a leadership transition involves a longtime executive director, an interim executive director can play an invaluable role.
Lesson learned: Have an outside voice to support the board chair during this challenging time. A trusted interim director can help ease potential tensions between staff and board.
5. External Support: Find your people — your co-conspirators and confidants.
Lesson learned: Draw support and lessons from trusted partners, including board members.
Read the full article about leadership transition by Mitch Nauffts at PhilanTopic
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