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Leadership Succession Planning

Boards of Trustees must have plans for the succession of their officers, especially for their chair and treasurer.

Unfortunately, most boards have no thoughtful succession plan, and when a chair or treasurer announces that he or she plans to leave the board, there is utter chaos. Nothing can be more divisive to a board then an internal power struggle for leadership caused by a vacuum of planning.

A succession plan for the head of school is becoming more common as boards grow to realize that a school’s administration should operate more like the corporate world, where change at the top is frequently an internal decision. Replacing a head with a national search is a very expensive and many times less-effective path to follow. Recent NAIS statistics on leadership change strongly supports hiring an internal candidate, if he or she is ready. Internal candidates who replace a successful head tend to have much longer tenure in the post than those candidates brought in from the outside - actually about 200% longer. Internal head choices are more familiar with the school culture, history and people.

A self-confident head of school should work at building a strong administrative staff with delegated responsibilities that are strategic in nature. When the day might arrive for one of these administrators to step up to a head’s position, they will be well prepared.

VisM can offer you the training to build a vibrant administrative team (not a group) that will work collaboratively to focus on the school’s strategic goals and mission. I feel strongly that the members of the head’s team should attend board meetings, make reports and be acknowledged as key members of the school’s leadership.

VisM is currently working with both boards and heads of independent schools on leadership succession planning. If you would like to hear more, please contact me.

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