Succession is such a difficult process. Non-profits, churches, hospitals, boys scout councils, businesses – all encounter the familiar--how to succeed the founder and continue the mission of the organization.
Too many times, the founder has overstayed its welcome. Unless by death and violent overthrow, the founder who has created the organization and put all his life and efforts to building it, refuse to step down and allow new blood to come into the organization. For a lot of founders who poured their whole life into it, they do not see it as a given. They are either in denial and ego had its way.
Regardless, the organization is suffering while the founder is still alive and able to create more havoc and instability by being present, running the show, but not necessarily present mentally, physically, strategically, and socially/charisma to function effectively with its role as a CEO and spokesperson for the organization. The second-in-line cannot function with its duties and responsibilities and will always be obstructed in its aim to make reforms and set things straight.
I have seen organizations suffer because of lack of ability to force down the issue on an aging founder who refused to vacate his position despite and in spite of the Board or the people in the organization telling him to retire and go fishing. The Board at that point were either inutile or bunch of friends, colleagues, and people who have been co-dependent on the founder and also refuse to vacate their posts or provide a public opposition. Those that resisted the founder were all gone. The rest of the staff were very demoralized and confused, and it showed in all aspects of the organization.
It was good in the beginning. The founder has brought an enormous amount of goodwill, social capital, and networks with its great charisma and ability to command a following. The organization for many years enjoyed successful funding and financial support from people who admired the founder and its expanded networks.
This wasn't the case anymore. For some time, the founders’ health, mental faculties, and charisma have deteriorated. The issue is no longer when is he going to retire but what can be done now to prevent a very sad ending both for the founder and the organization.
An immediate, short-term and long-term succession plan should be drawn and agreed by all important parties including the founder. A person who has been known and respected by the founder can be asked to facilitate this process. He will be recognized and celebrated as a founder for many years. This is not a good succession planning. This is crisis management. Some organizations have sacrificed tomorrow’s organizational health for today’s convenience. They refuse to deal with the elephant in the room.
With stakeholders, staff, funding from donors, the non-profit organization is not a property of the founder but a public entity and as such, it is a public trust. Peter Drucker said that "what decides whether a non-profit institution succeeds or fails is its ability to attract and to hold committed people. Once its loses its capacity, it’s downhill for the institution, and this is terribly hard to reverse."
If this article resonates with you, please share this with your colleagues and networks. You can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter to be the first to know of resources available for you. Contact us to resolve your challenges.