Monday, February 9, 2009

Trickle Up Leadership

This past Sunday was an article about the challenges seen at Sony Music relating to the leadership of Rick Rubin. Mr. Rubin (pictured above) is a great music producer and the thought was that he would be able to bring his success to a role as President/CEO. According to the article, it has not quite worked that way.

I equate this similarly to what happens in non-profit organizations, where an executive may leave and a program director is hired to fill the role. More often than not, the organization and the program director (sometimes) realize that specific management skills are needed that are not present in the program director.

Why do organizations do this? Most of the time it is either out of a sense of loyalty to the program person, who may have been there a great number of years as the #2 or #3. Sometimes it is laziness as going through a search can feel like it will be cumbersome. Overall, it reflects a disturbing view of executive management as believing that these skills are those that can be learned immediately on-the job, which sometimes happen.

The motto is that one position does not mean or equal future success as another. This is also true for those in the corporate community transferring to the nonprofit world. Best way to get there is further education and shadowing before stepping into the role.


Don Crocker said...

I agree. Often it does NOT serve the organization well to promote a program person into leadership. The better approach would be to step back and assess what skills, abilities, and background are needed to move the organization to its next level.

Hiring an interim leader can help the organization to pause and be more thoughtful about the transition.

In some cases the program person would be perfectly happy to continue their program work, as opposed to stepping up.

Hiring an interim would provide time to enable the board to assess whether or not promoting a program person is the right next move for both the organization and the individual.

Anonymous said...

I agree as well, and see this pattern as symptom of people centered management instead of organization centered management. The nonprofit sector can overdo their sense of obligation towards employees, tolerate sub-prime performance, and act like an employment program rather than a steward of donor, foundation, and government funds charged with making a difference.