Don’t throw the leader to the curb – they are not garbage! They are not criminals!

Why is it that so many organizations….especially the boards of non-profits…..feel that when it’s time to make a change with the executive leadership, they literally toss the person to the curb? When faced with the desire or perhaps the need to make a change, rather than handle the transition with grace, dignity and professionalism, an arrogant attitude prevails.

In the for-profit world this may not make that much of a difference to the organization’s customer base, but in the non-profit world, where relationships with staff, donors and constituents are essential, and the decision to make a change with an executive or artistic director needs to be carefully thought out.

In the case of a leader who has served the organization for a long time, wouldn’t it make more sense to launch a series of exciting farewell galas that can raise funds for the organization by honoring the leader? Rather than generating lots of negative publicity or even engaging in a PR battle in the media, wouldn’t it be better if the organization chose to name an endowment fund in honor of the departing leader?

However, that is often not the case. The prevailing “wisdom” –dare we really call it that – is the head must be cut off of the snake as quickly as possible. And in the end, (unless the leader has been convicted of a crime) that never really serves the interests of the organization and its constituents.

When boards make decisions to make an abrupt change, rather than one that is well thought out, often major donors stop giving, staff turnover increases, there is a media frenzy and a general sense of malaise affects the organization.

Artistic Directors and Executive Directors who have devoted their lives to organizations deserve to be treated better. And so does the community the organization serves.

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