Leadership Transition – Overcoming the threat of Founder’s Syndrome

“Simon is now almost 70. He has been Chief Executive of a global NGO for almost 30 years. I’ve done a few consultancies for them over the years. I’ve seen all their senior managers come and go. It’s like a revolving door. More than 80% of staff have left in the last five years. Simon’s been reported to the board on numerous occasions for shouting at staff and losing control in meetings.While staff describe the culture as toxic, Simon talks about disloyalty. But when they resign, he has to fill the gaps, driving himself with even longer hours. He regularly falls asleep in meetings and is not at all well, surviving on a cocktail of medication. He recently had a major stroke flying back from an international conference… And yet he refuses to retire, saying he cannot let go when the NGO is in such a state. And his friends on the board want him to stay because income is still surprisingly healthy.”

Sound familiar? Maybe we all know a Simon, or someone similar to him.

Rick James from Intrac says this nonprofit is afflicted by Founder’s Syndrome, which happens when a founder stays on too long in leadership so that it creates debilitating organisational dysfunction. And in the Praxis Paper published last September, below, he shares a comprehensive path in how to overcome this issue, and more generally, how to manage successful founder transitions in nonprofits organisations.

Download: Leadership Transition – Overcoming the threat of Founder’s Syndrome

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