Giving Compass' Take:

• Amy Nelson offers advice for organizations navigating leadership transitions, which can be especially challenging when previous leaders are highly ambitious.

• How important is it to have a framework for success when navigating leadership transitions? What can you do to remain vitalized and effective in your giving during organizational turnover?

• Read further on the art of embracing and navigating leadership transitions.

I remember the day more than three years ago when my boss, Andrew Yang, told me he was planning to run for president. I fought back the urge to say, “Of what?” and merely gave him a quizzical look. I already knew he planned to leave Venture For America (VFA), the organization he founded and we built together to prepare college graduates for careers as entrepreneurs.

Taking the reins as successor when an ambitious founder-predecessor’s star continues to rise adds complexity to the already challenging period of transition, and VFA has experienced both wins and missteps as a result of Andrew’s momentous decision. Over the course of 2017, the VFA board, team, and I brushed up on transition best practices and followed a clear playbook. This included hiring a chief operating officer, as I had been Andrew’s right hand, and we needed to deepen our leadership bench to shift some responsibilities away from me. It also included developing a new strategic plan, which allowed me to put my stamp on the organization and gave me permission to roll back programs that didn’t serve the new vision.

Many things are better than ever at VFA as a result of this tightly managed transition. Having a clear strategic vision improved program success rates and led to fundraising wins with aligned donors. Today, it appears we are fully on the other side of the existential threat many organizations face when the founder steps aside: the possibility that they will take their powerful connections and charismatic leadership style with them. But our playbook didn’t anticipate the unique complications of having our founder step into the national limelight.

Read the full article about navigating leadership transitions by Amy Nelson at Stanford Social Innovation Review.