by Jennifer Tolle Whiteside
As the CEO of a nonprofit organization, I report to the organization’s board of directors. Here at the North Carolina Community Foundation I have the privilege of working with and for an incredible board. Call me biased, but we have a great group of leaders who are truly committed, caring, really smart folks. They ask great questions, they are active, involved and informed.
For our organization, our leadership terms are two years, which means that every two years we get a new board chair. Our board chair position has just rotated, so that means I have a new boss.
I find it both energizing and bittersweet at the same time. It is a big change to work with someone closely for two years and then to move on to a new person. It is a little like breaking up with someone you really like. You still have feelings and you still see the person, but you are now in a new committed relationship with someone else. A little weird, a little awkward and a bit exciting all at the same time. As the CEO, you have to negotiate a new relationship. What does this person like? How do they prefer to receive information? How often will you be getting together? Will they respect you?
At the same time you are saying good-bye in a sense to the person you worked closely with for the previous two years. The weekly phone calls? Gone. The in-person meetings? Gone. The opportunity to really delve into an issue over a long conversation? Gone. Yes of course you can still call and email, but it is different...
That is how I have been feeling the last couple of weeks. Stuart Dorsett just completed his two-year term in April as our board chair. He was a great leader: informed and incredibly knowledgeable about our work since he is an attorney. He asked tough questions and challenged me – but he made me a better leader. He also was willing to talk on the phone, meet, email and just made himself incredibly available. I miss him.
But, on the other hand, we now have a new board chair! Linda Staunch is smart, savvy and incredibly knowledgeable in different areas. Her energy and passion are intoxicating. She has ideas and a real vision for what she wants to accomplish. Awesome! I am already enjoying working with her. We are building a relationship.
This is the yin and yang of board leadership. Change is hard. But change is also an element of the strength of our organization. We are bigger than just one person. We are a collection of people – and each person brings his or her unique talents and skills to the table. Leadership transitions strengthen the organization.
But breaking up is hard to do…