Asleep at the Helm

Asleep at the Helm

by Priscilla Rosenwald

We spoke of a Perfect Storm for a leadership crisis, as many boards ignore the discussion of succession planning for fear of rocking the boat.  Now we are finding that board chairs of high profile organizations with long-term leaders avoid serious oversight and succession planning.  Often the long-term or founding leader has not been receptive to board oversight and has been steering the ship without involving their board in critical strategic, financial or capacity decisions.

Imagine the board’s surprise when the organization hits stormy weather or the leader exits dramatically.  What a surprise that these boards subsequently

discover financial mismanagement, and the ravages of autocratic leadership including poor morale and ailing programs/services. The board then navigates with all hands on deck, and frantically seeks a turn-around skipper.

Oh, if only wishful thinking were replaced by strategic governance.

How about:

  • integrating strategic and succession planning to ensure organizational sustainability
  • establishing leadership development throughout the management team
  • creating simple, straight-forward financials to encourage oversight
  • board chairs and chief executives in a partnership that allows for fierce conversation

 If rocky waters and uncertain terrain make you seasick, then board governance may not be your calling. Board leadership requires strategic thinking, capable navigation and the ability to take the helm in stormy seas and manage gruff, egotistical captains.


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Published by

Matt Hugg

Matt Hugg is the president of Nonprofit.Courses.

See his bio here.

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