Boards and Growth—A Reminder

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The past week or so, I have been watching a small wave of stories about nonprofits parting ways with their executives, or thinking about doing so and then reconsidering. The first newswire I wrote this week on the topic was about the founder of an organization that had experienced significant growth over a short period of time and whose board, at some point, apparently decided that it needed more than one leader at the helm. So the board essentially demoted the founder and elevated two other staff members. There ensued an exodus of board members in protest, and eventually the decision was rescinded.

In another case, a woman heading up a growing health center resigned because of a “desire to achieve more of a work-life balance.” It was an interesting story because the resigning CEO admitted that she was prone to overworking and so the lack of balance was in part her fault; nonetheless, the pace of the job was, in her estimation, unsustainable. After the board started the search process for her replacement, it realized that it had an easier and more reliable way to go—namely, making the job more manageable. The organization restructured the position and offered her the job, and she rescinded her resignation.

All of this is to say that it is important for an organization’s board and staff to maintain a running dialogue on the structure of leadership jobs—in particular when an organization expands, but also when the group is facing big environmental changes that make the work more complex.

Even—and maybe especially—with highly competent leaders, it is often hard to see when a line has been crossed and thus when a restructuring is required. If you wait too long to do this, it may cause precipitous decisions that can harm the organization in the long run.

And now I am going to go ponder my own job over the coming long weekend. Have a good break!