Nonprofit executive successor planning: A phenomenology of nonprofit executive leadership transition

by Jefferson, Sharon E., Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2014, 173 pages; 3631655


The nonprofit sector has historically faced a multitude of challenges that threaten sustainability. Such continues even today. Nonprofit organizations struggle to respond to changes imposed by external environmental influences. These changes revolve around accountability and resources. With all of this, the sector now faces yet another challenge of a significant executive leadership deficit. During the past ten years to the present, the sector has experienced a mass retirement of baby boomer executives. The nonprofit sector has warned of the leadership deficit. However, nonprofit organizations have failed to urgently respond to the developing leadership void. Nonprofit organizations tend to not address executive leadership needs of the organization until an occurrence of vacancy. While nonprofit organizations are encouraged to utilize successor planning, under utilizing is prevalent. This qualitative research explores nonprofit executive successor planning from a phenomenological approach. The research emphasizes perspectives of twelve nonprofit executives who experienced leadership transition during the years 2008–2012. The research approach is framed by theories of organizational management and human behavior. This research informs the issue of nonprofit successor planning utilization decisions in two areas. One area is the influence of incumbent executives in facilitating successor planning. A second area is consideration of ascribing resource value to the executive position. Such can encourage strategic assessment and planning for future leadership needs. Findings of the research indicate continued under utilization of successor planning characterized by the following: a reality of nonprofit executives facing operational distractions; governing boards avoiding the issue of leadership transition; and nonprofit organizations under utilizing strategic planning.

AdviserRosemarie Pelletier
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsManagement; Business education
Publication Number3631655

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