The 5 Types of Leadership Transitions

My last blog about succession planning got a great response, and I'm following it up with more on leadership transitions. During the organizational lifecycle, there are 5 types of leadership transition times- when it's more likely or inevitable that change will be discussed or occur.

In young, emerging organizations that are initially volunteer-run, the first major leadership transition is the first hire.  Often it's the Board who has been running things, and they inevitably get to the point where they don't have the time or expertise to move the organization forward. The challenges are then to clarify the leadership position, manage expectations, and recruit the right person.

Once an organization is more well-established, there are other types of transitions in leadership. When a CEO or ED decides to leave a well-performing organization, the challenge is to decide whether the incoming person should be replaced with a leader who is the same or different than the outgoing. A leader who helps an organization grow from infancy is not necessarily someone who has the skills (or desire) to manage a sustainable one.

For organizations that are not performing well, the transition may be at the request of the Board. Often, changing leadership when an organization is underperforming is not the best solution- it may only serve to postpone a hard look at the underlying issues that are causing the problem.

When an organization is in more dire circumstances and is in need of a turnaround, the transition may be to an interim leader who is experienced in managing a crisis and creating stability. An interim leader can help assess how to "stop the bleeding" and identify the right kind of person to become the next permanent leader.

Finally, "founder's syndrome" is not a myth! There are times when CEOs overstay their welcome and become more of a liability than an asset to their organizations. When they finally do leave, not only is it necessary to replace a long-tenured leader, but the culture of the organization is often in need of deep change as well. Even in successful organizations, replacing a leader who has had great impact can be very difficult, and may require the Board to work hard to identify the new direction for the organization.

Regardless of the age or stage of an organization, the Board's responsibility is to assess and address the specific needs of the situation, and to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

If you need advice or help with leadership transitions or other organizational issues, please be in touch!