Back to Resources

Steps to Success: Preparing for Leadership Transition

Tips for Success: Preparing for Leadership Transition

Develop an emergency transition plan. Every organization should have an emergency succession plan in case something unexpected happens. It should include who will lead the organization in the interim, the process for identifying a new leader and a communications plan for letting supporters know about the transition.

  1. Continue to build your leadership bench. Organizations often make the mistake of relying on one leader. But developing leaders for the organization’s future is something that you should continuously think about, not just when there is a transition.
  2. Create a strong leadership transition committee. A good leadership transition committee can go a long way in ensuring a smooth transition. The committee should include board members, ideally the board chair, since they make the final hiring decision. It can also include staff and other stakeholders who can provide critical input  at different points in the process. You also need enough committed individuals who share the responsibility from the beginning to the end and who are thinking about the entire process.
  3. Set clear expectations with the new executive director. Make sure there are good working agreements between the new executive director and the board about first-year outcomes, decision-making parameters and how often he or she will need to communicate with the board. 
  4. Provide adequate “on-boarding” support. It can be a stressful time for the new executive director. It may be his or her first time as an executive or leading your particular type or size of organization. Make sure to include time and financial resources for training, coaching and other support to create the best possible conditions for the new executive director to thrive and be successful.