Leadership Transition and Succession for Social Change Activists and Nonprofit Organisations

Posted on
28 Feb 2019
Denise Charlton

Executive transitions and leadership succession can be difficult for all organisations, with specific challenges for nonprofits. Executive transition can present challenges on all levels, for employees, board members and stakeholders. Nonprofit organisations manage leadership transition and succession planning in varying ways. Many nonprofit organisations restrict the focus to the executive change, only seeing it as a recruitment process, often with negative consequences. Poorly managed transitions incur high costs to organisations and communities. Failure to plan for succession can result in a poor choice of leader. Transition failure can also levy a cost on the company’s reputation externally in the eyes of key stakeholders and internally in ways that affect employee motivation.

However, if managed effectively and actively, leadership transition also offers an opportunity for organisations. Organisations benefit when the process includes the implementation of a wider strategy, including organisational assessment, the involvement of key stakeholders, talent development, a professional executive search and a plan for incoming executives

Leadership transition requires significant additional time and skills, on top of the ordinary duties of boards of organisations, outgoing and incoming executive and staff teams. To support organisations, we have developed a guide on succession planning and leadership transition.  It is informed by the latest literature and theory and the practical experience of 20 non-profit organisations working in the area of social change. It outlines the experience of those organisations and the lessons learnt. Some of those participating managed the process successfully and shared the contributing factors.

Others had more challenges and faced difficulties that resulted in a failed transition(s) and for some this meant closure. They reflect on what contributed to the failure and suggest strategies and activities that might have helped them avoid some of the challenges. The discussions cover areas such as strategic planning; the importance of including key stakeholders, development and investment in leadership, key roles, responsibilities & tasks, the role of communications and the use of values in the process.

The guide will be presented at a seminar on 22 March in Dublin, where several of the participating organisational, representatives will share their experiences of managing change. Speakers will include perspectives from the outgoing executive or founder; the incoming CEO, a member of the Board managing the process and a funder, providing support in this context.

To attend this free seminar, RSVPcharltondenise93@gmail.com

Further details of the seminar: https://www.thesocialchangeinitiative.org/seminar-leadership-succession-and-transition-in-not-for-profits/

About Denise Charlton

Denise Charlton has worked in the area of Social Change for over 25 years. She is a non-executive director, working with organisations on strategic management, organisational development, leadership development and professional/ team coaching. She has vast experience in the areas of leadership, specialising in transitional coaching. She has specialist experience coaching Chief Executives and senior management teams, particularly those transitioning into a new role(s). She works with founders and/or long-term executives in transitioning out of an organisation. With in-depth understanding of the impact of change at a personal and collective level, she has in-depth experience working with groups and individuals in the areas of career transition. She has significant operational experience at senior levels and proven expertise in change leadership and transformation programmes, particularly within social justice and social change areas. She has a keen interest and advises nationally and internationally in the areas of migration and integration, anti-discrimination and diversity, LGBT rights, gender equality, with a specific focus on gender- based violence. She was Co-Founder of Marriage Equality and member of the strategic advisory committee for Yes Equality (Referendum on civil marriage equality for LGBT families), a member of the Strategic Advisory Committee for Together for Yes Campaign (Referendum on Reproductive Rights), CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, CEO of Women’s Aid and represented on numerous board in the non-profit and public sectors, nationally and internationally.

Denise Charlton