Management and Leadership in Nonprofits


Movin’ On

May 19, 2019

Nonprofit Leadership

A confession: I’m in the last year of my 50s. Next year is the big 6-0. Sigh — it even writes old! Okay, not old, but it’s certainly one of those signals that it’s time again to assess and plan. I strongly believe that every leader needs to take their time at certain mileposts to see where they are and get ready for what’s next. Those mileposts can be the completion of a big effort, the achievement of a role, a mistake or, in this case, a milestone.

For me, this milestone is a signal of a not-too-distant future of retirement. Let me be clear, I’m not retiring yet. However, it’s time to start getting the organization ready for that event. I’d like to share what getting ready for retirement means to me.  

First, I believe this is an opportunity to assess how well you’ve prepared the next leader(s) who will take your organization further than you ever dreamed possible. This is not just simple succession or replacement. It’s about positioning your organization for greater achievement. 

Second, it’s about preparing yourself for the idea that doing a great job at preparing the next leaders means they will likely surpass the success you had. I believe this is the most important legacy we can leave our organizations. Think of it: success beyond the current success. I can share that doing this is hard! You have to accept that someone will be even more successful than you — not an easy thing for most leaders. And you have to be the teacher/mentor who leads to that greater success. 

Doing these two things requires a change in mindset for both you and those you lead. It’s not a switch. It’s far subtler and occurs one small action at a time. And it’s really hard. 

I spend a lot of time with leaders working through succession. There is no magic formula. Instead, achieving a succession mindset requires understanding your organization’s culture; the skills, capabilities and core behaviors of your leaders (and others); peer support; board support; and a purposeful change management model (because new leadership definitely means change). There are all kinds of risk with this process. The one risk that I can guarantee will cause failure is your mindset about acceptance, preparation and change. In short, the first challenge is yours.

Over time, I am going to use this blogging platform to share my journey to retirement and succession. This won’t be in every blog. I still have a lot of other leadership stuff I’d like to share! However, the clock is ticking, and succession is an important journey we can help each other with. 

I’m interested in hearing your stories, too, and, with your permission, would like to share them as appropriate. 


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