Usually the departure of a leader from a nonprofit is planned well advance of the actual departure. Occasionally, however, a leader can leave unexpectedly, either for a short while or permanently.
In their book “When Leaders Leave” Priscilla Rosenwald and Lesley Mallow Wendell offer suggestions for an organization that experiences a temporary, unplanned absence. They recommend that the organizational leaders be able to answer the following questions:
- How does the organization define a temporary absence?
- Which board committee(s) will manage the emergency succession process?
- Who is designated to assume leadership in the absence of the chief executive? What authority will the person have?
- What process will be used to contact and inform staff when an unplanned absence occurs?
- Who will communicate with stakeholders? When and how?
- How will staff engage in managing in the absence of the chief executive?
- Who on the board will provide oversight to the individual(s) tasked with leading the organization in the absence of the chief executive?
- What process will be put in place to re-integrate the chief executive into the organization WHEN s/he is ready to return?
- If a temporary absence continues longer than anticipated, what adjustments to the initial process or plan will need to occur? Who will take responsibility to manage that process?