Revisiting Executive Transitions: Who Leads and How?


Who Leads and How?


What's in these Reports?

"Will We Get There Hire by Hire" offers reflections on over 15 years​ of executive leadership and transition data (building on our Daring to Lead series). This report looks at who leads, where executives come from, and why organizations aren't better prepared for transition. The discourse around leadership in the sector is one that acknowledges the importance of centering leaders of color, developing leaders internally, and moving past a savior or hero model (especially when it comes to executive leadership). How are we falling short of these apirations?

"5 Insights from Directors Sharing Power" explores how groups are aligning their leadership structures with their organizational identities and values. This report features five key insights surfaced from directors sharing power at five progresive organizations: Building Movement Project, Community United Against ViolenceHousing Rights Committee, Management Assistance Group, and Rockwood Leadership Institute


Project Background: Revisiting Executive Transitions

We know that the moment of executive transition can be a powerful time of revitalization around organizational strategy and sustainability. Can it also be a time to question leadership itself? Can it be a time to revisit who leads and how so that we not only strengthen organizations but transform sector leadership as thousands of transitions get underway each year? These questions are at the heart of the Revisiting Executive Transition project.

Through this Revisiting Executive Transition project, a two-year effort funded by The Annie E. Casey Foundation and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, we are:

  • offering reflections on over 15 years​ of executive leadership and transition data (building on our Daring to Lead series),
  • surfacing wisdom and key insights from social change leaders who are modeling shared leadership structures, 
  • looking at the current best practice of Executive Transition Management Services (with an essay from Tom Adams, Director at Raffa, P.C.),  
  • and offering some more resources around shared leadership to spark further thinking around challenging ideas of traditional top-down leadership structures. 




Resources for Rethinking Leadership Structures

How can we organize ourselves in ways that are responsive to a quickly changing world? How can we break apart rigid systems to open up leadership more broadly to more people (especially those who have been historically shut out of leadership positions)? How can we self-organize so that people who are closest to problems can have the authority to make decisions in agile and creative ways?

Rethinking rigid hierarchies and traditional top-down management isn't just about living out our values more fully—
it's also about building models that allow us to be responsive and resilient

While this list is nowhere near comprehensive, we hope it will be a launching pad for more discussion.

Building the Bicycle While We Ride It:
Five Reflections on Nonprofit Co-Leadership

by Devi Leiper O’Malley and Ruby Johnson for Nonprofit Quarterly

Co-Directorship - What Does it Mean?
Reflecting on Ten Months of Shared Leadership

by Frances Kunreuther for Building Movement Project

8 Tips for Making a Co-Directorship Work
by Christopher Punongbayan (Asian Americans Advancting Justice

Reflections on Shared Leadership
By Elissa Perry and Susan Misra (Management Assistance Group)

Doing More with More:
Putting Shared Leadership into Practice

by Michael Allison, MBA, Susan Misra, MPA, and Elissa Perry for Nonprofit Quarterly 

Willing to be Transformed:
A nine year queer, cross-race work marriage

by Caitlin Breedlove

The Most Dangerous Notion
in Reinventing Organizations

by Jessica Prentice

We Didn't Start a Movement. We Started a Network 
by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Black Lives Matter

How to Grow Distributed Leadership 
by Alanna (Krause) Irving

Structuring Leadership: Alternative Models for Distributing Power and Decision-making in nonprofit organizations
by Caroline McAndrews, Frances Kunreuther, and Shifra Bronznick 

Cut the B.S.: Organizations
With No Hierarchy Don't Exist

by Francesca Pick

Living Shared Leadership:
Reflections for the Future (Part One)
by Elissa Perry (Management Assistance Group),
for Leadership for the 21st Century (St. Mary's College of California)



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