For many not-for-profit organizations, the resignation of a long-time CEO is seen as a reason to panic rather than an opportunity to take stock of the agency’s current situation and make a strategic hiring decision. Often the Board of Directors feels daunted by the task of replacement – especially if they have relied very heavily on the outgoing CEO for leadership – but their first response is to get that hiring process underway as quickly as possible. This is a missed opportunity – particularly if the sector in which the agency operates has evolved during the tenure of the departing CEO or if the organization has experienced significant growth or upheaval of any kind. It is in fact quite risky to move quickly on the replacement hiring as the costs associated with a “mis-hiring” can be very high.
An alternate response for a thoughtful Board would be to bring in an interim leader to give them time to reconsider what the organization really needs in its next CEO at this particular point in time. Instead of the steady administrator that has run the place for the last 20 years, perhaps the current need is someone who can take the organization to the next level of development in terms of mission accomplishment? The right interim leader can also provide a Board with an objective opinion of what the organization needs going forward, informed by the unique perspective of having actually done the job for some period.
With the retirement of so many Baby-Boomer CEOs in the next decade, Boards are also going to have to try new strategies as the smaller size of the replacement pool will make the hiring timeline much longer, if they can find a replacement at all!