Avoiding Post-Leadership Letdown

NFP Volunteering – Part 3

Relevance deprivation‘ is normally associated with retirement from paid work, but it can also be experienced by non-profit leaders when they finish their term of office.

While talent pipeline and succession planning resources usually focus on identifying and developing your future leaders, they don’t necessarily recognise that the journey also continues for the immediate-past leader.

As with any well-planned initiative, your volunteering coordination efforts should start with the end in mind. The end of a term of office for your leaders should not necessarily be the end of their engagement journey with you however.

Many retiring leaders will have other commitments to move onto, and so will avoid the letdown response some have described, when the phone stopped ringing and the emails and text messages stopped flowing. We don’t normally intend to treat ex-leaders as pariahs, but when communications slow or cease, they can feel cut off and unappreciated.

The chart above offers a few suggestions for post-leadership roles which acknowledge the skills and expertise of those who have served as senior officers of your organisation.

Some ‘role-retirees’ may be content with appreciation and recognition rituals of some kind, but others would welcome the opportunity to contribute something of their knowledge and experience to the ongoing work of your organisation. This makes them potentially valuable in advisory, mentoring, teaching and volunteer coordination roles.

Another role offered by some organisations is membership of an advisory panel, which can be convened by the current President or Chair as required, when complex policy or advocacy issues arise. Care must be exercised to avoid such a group being seen as shadow directors or ‘the board behind the board’. If only used for occasional consultation, and not as a decision-making group, that risk can be avoided.

As with retirement from the paid workforce, ‘role-retirement’ too can benefit from planning and preparation.

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