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Yesterday, I wrote a newswire about the closing of the New York City opera. Actually, the newswire was just meant to highlight the opinion of columnist Justin Davidson, who writes that the fabled “people’s opera” made the mistake of looking repeatedly for a leading heroic figure that could save it from itself.
I have worked among nonprofits for some time, and have watched this dynamic occur over and over. Some boards look for their organization’s future in a single vivid leader who epitomizes a sharp contrast to his or her organization’s past, and this can lead to extremism in leadership choices. Additionally, and this is not a problem isolated to this sector in the least, boards will look for a set of skills that they see as being necessary and a track record of success, albeit possibly in a very different type of enterprise, believing that these can just be imported without regard to the field of endeavor.
Looking for extremist saviors may work from time to time, but I would venture that such decisions very often don’t work, especially when attempted repeatedly over a relatively short period. That kind of dynamic brings questions about the board front and center.
But don’t take it from me! You can look at this research-based article by Jim Collins, and this piece of research from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University to get a sense of strategies you may wish to use to improve your organization’s chances of avoiding the kind of crisis situation that makes many reach for an industry stranger just to get a new start.