Managing A Leadership Transition

Managing A Leadership Transition (downloadable pdf) from Executive Transitions. A check list of key interventions for transition consultants and interim Executive Directors.


This checklist is meant as a guide for the strategies of Interim Executive Directors and Transition Consultants who are working with clients of the Executive Transitions program at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. It was developed by a committee of veteran executives and consultants who had worked with Executive Transitions clients over the first two years of the program.

A major strategic concept underpins the interventions listed:

  1. The chances for a successful tenure by an agency’s new CEO are optimized if careful attention is given both to “change” techniques (candidate recruitment and proper departure rituals for the resigning ED, for example) and to techniques for helping all stakeholders through the psychological “transition” that lags behind all objective change events. Skipping over key change steps or transition steps can lead to serious difficulties for the agency’s enterprises and its newly hired executive director.
  2. Using the language of William Bridges, there are three major phases to an executive transition: ending, neutral zone, and beginning. There are interventions specific to managing each phase.

The suggested interventions are organized with these concepts in mind. They are split out by transition phase, and within each phase there are interventions related to change activities and to transition needs.

It should be noted that the phases are overlapping as a change unfolds; the three phases do not have discrete endings. For instance, transition activities relating to the departure of the former executive can be still be occurring after the beginning of the new executive.

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