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I’ve talked about boards and their importance to an organization but a series of recent conversations have led me to reflect on the role of the executive director.

When do you know when your organization has outgrown your executive director? When is it time to urge them to give way to new thinking in order to revitalize the organization.

In many non profits, generally smaller organizations, the founder is the executive director and just like entrepreneurial businesses, there is a time when the this leader must adapt or step aside to allow their organizations to continue growing. It’s a healthy and natural process which if ignored, leads to struggle and stagnation.

All the conversations I had talked about the ED being the old guard, happy with the way things are, and seeing the role of the organization in a certain light. But the donations were declining, the membership unengaged and competing organizations taking the spot light. There was a need to review the value proposition and modernize the brand.

If the executive director is holding the organization back, generally the board is enabling this.

So the big question is – how to push for change. I’d say the core answer is courage. The courage to ask the tough questions, push for answers and seek solutions. That could be seeking out and bringing in new board or executive team members that have the skills and passion to affect change.  It could be creating new roles that act as change agents within the organization. It could be the employees banding together and speaking with one voice.

No one wants their organization to die, they just don’t realize how sick it is. Who has the courage to start the conversation?

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