Q. Why is it so important to ensure a smooth transition when a Founder exits?
A. It instills confidence with the membership or customer base – which affects a company’s culture and bottom line.
On the heels of the Amazon announcement that its CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos was stepping down, it left other company creators intrigued. How will the process of untangling the influence of a Founder, in a Founder-led organization, work? Is it more or less difficult with companies of a different scale? If you’ve effectively managed “Founder’s Syndrome” during the leader’s tenure, can the issue still arise during succession?
Founder’s Syndrome (also founderitis) is the difficulty faced by organizations where one or more founders maintain disproportionate power and influence following the effective initial establishment of the organization, leading to a wide range of problems.
“Founder’s Syndrome” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, January 2021
Any leadership transition works best when the change is anticipated and addressed in the company’s succession plan.
Since every organization is different, there is no tried and true manual that can successfully prepare you for a Founder exit or transition, since things like relational dynamics, scale and other dependencies can factor in. However there are some guidelines that can help Boards prioritize their agenda. Here are three things that organizations must do to move on successfully after a Founder steps down:
- Honor the legacy of the founder’s journey and show that the incoming leader has the Founder’s full support
- Put the organization’s needs first while honoring the founder’s legacy from a peripheral standpoint
- Communicate consistently with staff and stakeholders regarding updates throughout the transition
- Revisit the organization’s Mission and Vision with the strategic direction of the new leader
- Return to the business plan: be clear about the new direction and anticipated shifts with the new leadership
- Identify how the reporting structure and operational lines of business may change
- Visualize the culture and communicate regularly and effectively with staff to promote a shared vision
Founder-led organizations can benefit from Board Veritas’ free webinar on Fine Tuning Your Mission and Vision statement, on February 24, 2021.
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