Who's Next? Leadership Succession Planning

By David Sharken, Mentor & Legacy Program Director

Has your organization thought about and planned for the time when your camp director leaves? You know it is going to happen - sooner or later - with or without notice. The smart organization plans for this inevitable transition for several key reasons:

  • It is a way to manage the potential risk of sudden changes
  • It is a strategy to develop leadership on all levels of your organization
  • It creates an organizational resiliency
  • It is a critical board and executive leaders' responsibility

Just as an organization has a plan in place in case of weather or other emergencies, you need to prepare for both an expected shift in leadership as well as an unexpected change. The process of creating a succession plan can help build the leadership capacity of your staff and board by aligning your succession with your strategic organizational vision. It is a way to engage and tap your board's wisdom and can give confidence to various stakeholders.

There are three basic categories of executive transitions to keep in mind: strategic leadership development; an emergency succession and a departure defined transition.

  1. Strategic Leadership Development
    In this situation, you recognize leadership up and down the organizational chart with board and staff sharing the responsibility, the decision-making and the accountability for leadership development. In a way, it is taking an inventory of your talent and skills to make sure they are aligned with your strategic vision. By identifying gaps of skills in the board and staff, you can train existing leaders or recruit new people to ensure that if the current leadership were to leave, you have the resources and skills to maintain the resiliency of the organization.
  2. Emergency Succession
    Board leaders and the management team need to prepare for a possible emergency gap of leadership due to a sudden departure. You need to identify the key executive functions and list the process for creating staff and board responsibilities. Similar to the skills inventory in strategic leadership development, you can prepare by identifying key areas for cross-training and ensure leadership procedures and actions are ready.
  3. Departure Defined Transition
    When there is adequate notice for a camp director leaving, it is a special opportunity for organizational reflection, history celebration and future excitement. Key issues for this process include choosing the right transition leadership team, deciding on whether or not you desire an interim director and communication/engagement with key stakeholders.

More Resources

Following are links to articles and other tools to help your organization with executive transition planning.