Succession Planning for Founders

Ensuring your leadership team is sustainable and committed is one of the most essential keys to operating an organization. The board must successfully manage its way through many life cycle changes. Venturing into new territory—whether it’s a new leadership position or bringing on board a new type of donor—the next generation of founders need to be guided by wisdom, not just by prior experience. 

While the transition is typically fraught with uncertainty, apprehension, and hard-to-navigate challenges, it’s a delicate feat that requires attention to detail. Therefore, succession planning should begin at the leadership cycle’s inception for a smooth change and to leave a successful legacy. 

‘Founders syndrome’ or ‘founderitis’ is another piece of the puzzle, requiring careful navigation when planning succession. These terms describe an association founder’s hesitancy and resistance to change, leading to conceptual stagnation and a lack of evolution. However, associations are constantly evolving; therefore, it is imperative to adapt and be open to the opinions of newer generations.

Leaders are responsible for bringing their knowledge and expertise to boost revenue and drive an association to success. Whether a long-tenured leader with an anticipated leave date or an unexpected vacancy, a written plan must be in place. This guide lists some top strategies to include in your arrangements for a smooth and lucrative succession of founders.

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Avoid Procrastinating — Plan In Advance 

Procrastination can be an association’s downfall when there is already an absence of leadership on board. Unexpected and unanticipated events may occur, leading to an open board position that needs immediate filling. Nothing’s worse than having to coordinate a contingency plan when you need the contingency plan the most.  

For an easy transition, several years of planning are required to find the appropriate successor, training, and onboarding. The quicker your organization can find a suitable replacement, the less time and resources will be wasted. 

Purposeful planning, in addition to emergency planning, is essential. An organization should continuously prepare, coordinate, invest, and train for the next generation of leadership. The moment to begin succession seeking is long before any transition is needed. 

Consider Internal Succession

Who better to lead an organization than someone who has already taken the time and effort to integrate into a community, its culture, and its history? 

Sometimes, internal succession is an easier and more convenient transition of a new board representative. Associations that push and encourage their own team members to become executives and leaders are always better equipped for founder succession. 

Internal successors are often overlooked because they succeed in their current roles or because a board is hyper-focused on external applicants. It is, however, essential that if an internal applicant is being considered, a company-approved process is in place, and the appropriate training is completed. 

Encourage Mentorship

Mentorship is an incredible opportunity for anyone stepping into a new leadership role, especially at a new association. As an incoming board member, observing the organization, identifying its strengths and weaknesses, and discovering the natural flow of leadership is a great asset. 

In addition, current founders can provide a world of wisdom, expertise, and experiences to their successors. Coaching and supporting these individuals will give them confidence in their voice, a chance to ask questions, and seek additional help. 

Founders typically have given years of blood, sweat, and tears into an organization. When their leadership has come to an end, and they’re given a mentee to coach and train, it helps them with their own personal transition. Turning over the reins and letting go can be challenging; however, mentorship can provide founders with the solace they need: their successors will take great care of what they built. 

Wrapping Up 

This advice is easy to give but can be challenging to apply. The pace of change in your organization, the loyalty felt by those who worked with the founder, and the organizational culture they helped create all present significant barriers. However, these tips for succession planning will make the transition smoother and the barriers easier to manage. It will lay the foundation for a stronger association, ultimately leading to better serving its members.