Five Years

Why do many social sector Executive Directors feel less certain about their future after five years with an organization? Two themes arise.

First, the board members that hired the Executive Director gets diluted with new board members who create a different expectations.  The board members that hired the Chief Executive are motivation to see them succeed.  It was the board’s collective wisdom and faith that bestowed the position of Chief Executive on the individual in charge.  Incoming board members have a different relationship with the Executive Director and may alter the Board-CEO chemistry.  The evolution of the board and its expectations over five years is one of the silent contributors to Executive Director turnover.

Secondly, there is an underlying need to reinvent ours approach every five to seven years.  Educational institutions with a culture of inquiry encourage faculty members to engage in a significant self-audit and re-imagine their teaching approach.  This evolution is challenging in a classroom and a real hire wire act in the role of Chief Executive.  If an organization has established a circle of safety then their leader may feel safe refreshing their management philosophy.  However, if trust and empathy are absent it is easier to stick with the tried and true.  Sadly, the opportunity for innovation and a deeper human connection are lost and friction increases.  Withholding the scaffolding for executive renewal may ensure outward appearances are positive but the structural integrity of the organization often falters.

How do we keep the best leaders engaged?  With the most significant leadership turnover in the social sector is underway, what steps can we take to nurture those who a uniquely positioned to lead our enterprise?

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