Did You Know?

Did You Know? Associations Largely Don’t Plan for Leadership Succession

By Association Adviser staff • November 9, 2018

Over the past couple of months, we’ve asked our readers how prepared they are (or not) to eventually replace their leadership through a formal succession plan. Our poll question,

Does your association have a succession plan in place for C-level positions?

yielded less than a dozen answers. We wonder if this is in part because few people like to think about endings. It’s estimated that 60 percent of American adults don’t have a will, 75 percent don’t have a health-related advance directive (living will) in place, and 69 percent of parents have not yet named guardians for their kids.

Here are the results:

Does your association have a succession plan in place for C-level positions?

Professional retirements or job transfers aren’t the same as death, of course, but a change in leadership is an ending. Without the right planning, a strong, established leader’s departure could mean that strategic plans become stalled or unfinished. Boards that hummed along under the steady guidance of your day-to-day leader become stagnant. Members become confused about the direction of the association as the remaining leadership struggles to figure out what’s next.

Planning for leadership successions has multiple benefits

The bright spot in this poll is that some associations do have a plan for CEO/executive director succession. Ensuring smooth transitions between your top leaders’ tenures can help ensure that daily operations continue as normal, and that larger initiatives continue unimpeded as well. If you have a CEO/executive director succession plan in place, shift your focus to board succession planning and insulate your association against abrupt leadership change even further. Tamela Blalock, MBA, CAE, CMP, DES details how revamping the Section on Women’s Health board president succession plan resulted not only in clearer expectations for the position, but made the responsibility of board leadership less intimidating while opening it up to more people.

Make succession planning a year-end task

Other associations told us that they plan to work on a succession plan within the next six months. With year-end reviews starting to happen for associations operating on a calendar year, and many leadership bodies well into strategic planning exercises for the coming year, now is a great time to review deficiencies in your association’s leadership succession realities and make a plan to improve how leadership turns over.

Need a resource to inspire your first succession planning steps? Check out Jeff De Cagna’s eBook, Foresight is the Future of Governing.

Because your association’s leadership will turn over. CEOs will retire, directors will step down to spend time on other projects, and rising stars will bow out to spend more time with family. Your association doesn’t have to grind to a halt when that happens. Make a C-level succession plan and help ensure the future success of your association.