Leadership–and Back-tracker-ship

A friend who works at a church observes that when a pastor doesn’t work out (for any number of reasons), the tendency of the church Board is not merely to replace the pastor but to seek someone new who will take the church back to where it was when it hired the failure.  This tendency might be termed the Return to Eden Syndrome.

But just as un-eating the apple wasn’t one of Eve’s options, going back to where you were last year or five years ago isn’t a real possibility, for a church or any other charity.  And the cost of thinking that it might be is that you might hire someone who’s exactly perfect for where your nonprofit was 5 years ago–someone who would be perfect, say, for managing the transition from a founding executive director.  But by now that transition has already taken place, whether or not it was accomplished ideally.  And the next executive director most likely will need fewer of the skills essential for transition (such as staff hand-holding) and more of the skills essential for growth (such as Board recruitment). 

Strategic planning is the only way I know to combat the Return to Eden Syndrome: nothing like a good planning process to remind everyone that your nonprofit isn’t now, and never was, Paradise.  Does anyone know of a less labor-intensive process for identifying what’s needed in a post-failure leader?  Input from executive recruiters particularly sought.

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