No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Consultants to nonprofits often talk about "Founder’s Syndrome," the condition in which a charity’s founding leader is unable to let the organization grow and change.  But even self-aware founders–those who consciously decide it’s time to let go–find themselves dealing with resistance to change.  When, as is often the case, that resistance comes from board members accustomed to being led and therefore frightened of leading, it’s a case of what the Nonprofiteer would dub "Foundlings’ Syndrome." 

It can be aggravating to deal with a Board as its faces its complete responsibilities for the first time: what, it’s tempting to think, have these people been doing all this time? But Foundlings’ Syndrome simply represents a specific example of the general principle that no good deed goes unpunished.  If you’re going to be a charismatic and dynamic visionary with the strength to create an organization out of whole cloth and sustain it in an unfriendly world, you can’t be surprised that you’re surrounded by people who are in awe of you–and awestruck people seldom lead. 

Most nonprofits will survive the so-called succession crises brought on by founder retirements.    And you’ll know yours is going to make it when what was a roomful of orphans bemoaning the organization’s needs and losses becomes a roomful of adults brainstorming about its resources. 

That’s a great moment: the moment when the Board figures out that (as Walt Kelly might say) "We have met the visionary and s/he is us."

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One Response to “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”

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