|This is the place: Battle Creek, Mich. No wait that's Dragnet|
It’s the nature of things to change. I get that. But lately feels destabilizing.
Erv Brinker, Rod Auton, Patty Staib, Ken Tushiyama, Jackie Hampton, Karl Dehn, Nancy MacFarland. There are more. Some names are familiar; others less so.
When change involves human beings, it comes at a cost and I’m not talking money. Whatever the reasons for change in these cases, we must acknowledge the pain and anguish associated with it. And not just for the person being let go or leaving.
|It can be lonely at the top.|
There’s also staff to consider. The psychological and emotional impact surrounding the move is no small matter, and often belies the phrase, “leadership transition.”
Then there’s the toll paid by the people a departed leader’s organizations serves. The quality of service clients or residents receive must surely be impacted too. The question is to what extent? More on that later.
Now I’m no conspiracy theorist but I’ve been known to play one on Facebook from time to time. So to me, it’s interesting to witness all these folks exiting their important posts in such close order.
Again, some of these folks left of their own volition; it was time to retire or just to move on. In other cases, the changes were seemingly mysterious – or felt somehow forced.
And that’s the rub. Changes around here are happening in ways that have created a good measure of ambiguity in the way I thought I understood this town. Battle Creek is becoming less predictable.
Not that it’s a bad thing, mind you. Change can be good. It’s just the uncertainty associated with it is unsettling for people. Myself included.
I’m no spring chicken. I’ve had my share of earthshaking change. Like a lot of folks, I’m still going through various transitions from time to time. The difference is that in my 20s and 30s, change felt new and exciting. The insecurity of it all was a call to adventure.
These days when it comes to change, I often sense a looming specter of peril. It’s not paralyzing, just present in a way it didn’t used to experience risk.
Back to conspiracy theories. If I were a paranoid sort, I might irrationally point to the masterminds of the new TV drama “BattleCreek” as playing a role in the seismic personnel shift going on. After all, it would be in the interest of the show’s producers (and Hollywood) to conjure a city filled with scandal and messiness to help drive ratings.
Another, more reasonable take on all this leadership change is the growing sophistication and education of various boards of directors. They are the ones most closely associated with at least the sudden or unexpected departures of the various executive directors, presidents and CEOs.
In the wake of their decisions about leadership, one wonders how much attention is paid to the impact such transitions have on the ongoing quality of organizational service. As mentioned, clients and residents are also affected during these executive purges.
When it comes to board decisions about executive leadership viability, it’s my experience – as a person who’s served on boards ranging from small grassroots service agencies to large national nonprofits – that the top priority is the fiscal, legal and ethical integrity of their organization. It’s not the internal staff or external people it serves. Makes sense I guess, given the weight of fiduciary responsibilities each board member carries.
|Universal board logic.|
Still, many of the orgs in question service the poor, elderly and/or disabled – our community’s most vulnerable populations. These same folks are disproportionately affected in the municipal sector when department heads roll or otherwise vacate. This begs the question, is enough consideration being given to ensure their best interests? If not, who oversees the overseers?
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.