I recently agreed to serve as co-chair of our nonprofit’s search committee to replace the current president and founder. He will be retiring with the next year or so. He has a wealth of information, wisdom, relationships, and passion. Needless to say, replacing him is impossible. Fortunately, he is going to remain with us in an advisory role so our transition should be a good one. 

One problem I see time and again when organizations prepare to replace their leader is they almost always look for a clone of the retiring leader. Big mistake! Better to assess the organization’s future needs and operating environment to determine what kind of leadership profile will match up successfully to the organization’s future challenges.

Skills and personal experiences that equipped a founder and helped him or her succeed probably will not be the right ones to help a new leader successfully take the organization to the next level  over the next 5 years. Organizational complexity and size, external partnerships and pressures, evolving client needs, and the financial picture during the next 5 years will all be very different than what the leader faced previously. That requires leadership with a different skill set, experiences, and talents from the retiree.

In fact, it may be unwise to begin a leadership search unless the organization has a fresh 3-year strategic plan in hand. How else can you really know what you are looking for.  While this may be disappointing to staffers who consider them selves second in command, they need to take responsibility for personal professional development so they are not disappointed to learn they are passed over.  

These are exciting and important times for an organization. Call me and let’s talk about it…