Armstrong McGuire believes that healthy leadership transitions start with thoughtful planning. At its best, this planning work is done well in advance of the pending departure of a chief executive – before the urgency of making a hiring decision impedes meaningful discussions about how to sustain, grow, or adjust the strategic direction of an organization. Further, this planning is most effective when it includes the perspectives of key stakeholders in an organization’s success, including the current chief executive and staff, the board of directors, community partners, volunteers, and donors. Finally, transition planning should include evaluations of skills needed for leadership and management as well as an assessment of cultural norms and behaviors that significantly impact the organization’s ongoing success.
The benefits of good planning include the opportunity to build a deep sense of trust between the board and the staff, prepare the organization for unexpected emergencies, and give key stakeholders confidence in the long term viability of the organization beyond any one key leader. Similarly, poor planning can lead to decreased contributions and overall revenue, painful disruptions or cuts in programs, employee turnover and morale issues, negative community perceptions, and confusion over the direction in which the organization is heading.