Leadership Recruiters September 2015 Newsletter

Volume 10 • September 2015
The Pinnacle Message – Rock the Boat
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Nothing is more central to a dynamic organization than its capacity to cope with complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty and change.  In the era of rapid change, it is imperative for a nonprofit organization to be more future-oriented, and more concerned with selecting the proper direction and most capable leader. Our nonprofit leaders have to be capable of dealing with revenue generation and sustainability issues that demand courage, decisiveness and action.
In my 20 years as an organizational consultant and executive recruiter for both the nonprofit and for profit sectors, I find that most board leadership do not have emergency or transition plans in place for long-term chief executives, who are leading with complacency. The sub rosa issue of a planned departure is avoided -- in order to not rock the boat.
Judith Rodin, in her new book the RESILIENCE DIVIDEND, conveys this message: Never let a good crisis go to waste. So let’s rock the boat and make some waves!!
Happy September,

Leadership Change & the Benefit of Rocking the Boat
A robust leadership continuity plan serves as a roadmap for talent management, prior to the leadership transition; unfortunately, countless organizations often have not provided the executive coaching to enable the internal CFO or COO to succeed as CEO in an external leadership role.   This makes the distinction between leadership and management quite critical to an organization's internally-focused successor planning, as distinct from the externally-focused succession planning. Often the CEO and CFO/COO have worked as a strong complementary team, with clearly defined internal and external roles. This partnership is often endorsed as “successor planning”.
While recruiting a chief executive, search committees often limit their expectations to how the role can be continued without making waves. Search committees often make a hiring decision based on institutional knowledge, rather than future challenges.  Inherently, they focus on keeping the status quo, and either promote internal managers or hire external candidates who have not developed nor demonstrated the competencies to lead. CFO’s and COO’s are good managers, adept at overseeing resources through planning and organizing the activities and operations of the organization - while CEO’s are leaders that challenge the process, inspire shared vision, enable others to act, model the way and encourage commitment internally and externally.
The profound distinction between management and leadership impacts markedly when selecting a chief executive. In the process of assessing talent for a leadership change, it is important to keep the expectations of management and leadership quite distinct – if the board wants the next chief executive to create new ideas, new approaches and new methodologies.
  • Good managers are tactically adept at overseeing resources through planning and organizing the operations of the organization.
  • Great leaders are strategically adept, and, inspire shared vision, enable others to act, model the way and encourage commitment.
When the unprepared internal candidate has been selected as successor to the chief executive,  the COO-turned-CEO or CFO-turned CEO often departs after a limited and frustrating tenure. The search committee must then engage once again in a long, expensive search process and manage stakeholder and community confidence. To ensure sustainability, chief executives have to be capable of dealing with problems and issues that demand courage, decisiveness and action.  The significance of making waves is a critical factor to explore in the process of leadership change.
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The Critical Partnership: Chief Executive &
Board Chair 
One of the most important ingredients to a successful organization is the strategic stewardship between the board chair and chief executive. This relationship has clear challenges and opportunities which will determine the strength of the partnership.
The chief executive is in a permanent role and is thereby responsible for knowledge transfer. The board chair is in a leadership role for a defined timeframe and is responsible to provide leadership to the board for oversight and governance. In addition, the board chair leads the board in evaluating the performance of the chief executive.
When this partnership is not operating smoothly, the organization is placed in great jeopardy. Everyone is impacted by the dysfunctional dynamics of an obvious power struggle, and the strength and sustainability of the organization suffers.
To enhance the interface between these leadership roles, it is useful to set up formal practices that help both leaders discern between an organizational issue and a personal issue. The following suggestions are provided to help ensure an effective partnership:
  • When a new chief executive or new board chair assumes their role, the two would benefit from joint coaching to clarify expectations on how they can best work together as a team.
  • Have regular board training sessions that define the roles of board chair and chief executive.
  • Agendas for board meetings should be developed jointly by the board chair and chief executive.
  • The board chair should consult with the chief executive when appointing (or suggesting to the board) chairs for various committees and a slate of officers
  • Have clear written guidelines about the roles of staff when they provide ongoing support to board committees.
  • Rotate the board chair position every two-three years to ensure new and fresh perspectives in the role expertise.
  • Develop board chairs by selecting vice chairs who demonstrate requisite leadership.
  • Determine the frequency and nature of meetings to be held between the chief executive and board chair. Always record the highlights of these sessions and share with the executive committee.
  • Have clearly written performance expectations and outcomes for evaluating the chief executive, with an approach that ensures 360 feedback from all key reports and stakeholders on regular basis.
Why not begin every new partnership with a conversation about joint expectations?
Recent Projects
Executive Search
  • Chief Executive Officer – The Charter High School for Architecture & Design
  • Executive Director – Schuylkill River Greenway Association
  • Executive Director – American Institute of Architects, Philadelphia Chapter
  • Executive Director – Dornsife Director, Drexel University
  • Executive Director – The Beck Institute
  • Executive Director – Appel Farm for Music and Art
  • Operations Manager – ACHA
  • General Manger – The Swarthmore Co-op
  • General Manager – The Reading Terminal Market Corporation

Workshops and Consulting 
  • Citi Leadership Program for Opportunity Finance Network
  • Managing Change - School for Social Policy, University of Pennsylvania
  • Planning for Leadership Change - NORD

Priscilla Rosenwald is the Principal of Leadership Recruiters, an executive search firm providing strategic
staffing and leadership development for nonprofit and social enterprise organizations.
Co-Author of When Leaders Leave: A New Perspective on Leadership Change.

215-665-1479 pinnacle@leadrecruit.com Leadership Recruiters TransitionWorks

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