Prepare, Pivot & Thrive - Succession, Strategy, Sustainability & Search

The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide


ldr_guide_cvrThe Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide: Proven Paths for Leaders and Organizations
by Tom Adams, published by Jossey-Bass

Great nonprofits seem to hum. Passionate staff, dedicated board members, sensational outcomes, satisfied clients, and devoted donors tell the story. That story is leadership. But over the next five years, more nonprofit leaders will leave than ever before. Great nonprofits will need to sustain their success, while emerging ones will face wonderful new opportunities.

The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide shows you how to seize the moment. Author Tom Adams shares secrets used with over 400 organizations over decades of experience as a leader and consultant. He'll teach you to harness the power of emotions in transition, how great founders lead stellar transitions, and how to diversify leadership. You'll see how to capitalize on the three critical stages of transition, how strategic succession plans lift the organization, why you must prepare today for emergency leaves, and what to do when the leader says, "it's time for me to retire." Finally, you'll learn how to apply proven Fortune 500 talent management methods that help even the smallest organizations grow their own great leaders. The result: A better-run, better-prepared nonprofit—the kind of humming organization that inspires ongoing success.

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What They're Saying About The Nonprofit Leadership Guide

"Tom has taken the very practical advice that helped us and our grantees and has translated it into essential reading for the entire nonprofit field...Any reader of this guide will come away with the hard but certain realization that underinvestment in and lack of attention to leadership transition and development makes a fool's errand of even the best work in this field...Tom has illuminated the path to a better day. It's up to us to follow up and follow through." Ralph Smith, Executive Vice President, Annie E. Casey Foundation

"Make no mistake: attracting and retaining top talent should be priority #1 for the nonprofit sector. Adams's book offers practical advice for how to embed this priority into the sector's DNA." Kathleen P. Enright, President and CEO, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations  

"This guide is one of a kind in providing a realistic frame about the world of nonprofit leaders. Maybe even more important, it is a tool for nonprofit boards of directors and philanthropic organizations in understanding the connection between their investment in leadership and achieving the goals of their organizations." Diane Bell McKoy, CEO, Associated Black Charities

"Maintaining a robust talent pipeline is a critical need that has rarely gotten the attention it deserves in the nonprofit sector. His new book is a valuable road map for the funders, community organizations, and educators." Tim Wolfred, Senior Project Director, CompassPoint Nonprofit Services

"How easy it is to hire the wrong person! This wise book will guide your search committee through the science and art of a leadership transition." Char Mollison, Former Senior Executive, Independent Sector and the Council on Foundations

"Tom Adams is the coach's coach. His book is a must‐read for any board of directors or rookie executive director seeking to be the beacon for transformational leadership in their organization." Manny Hidalgo, Executive Director, Latino Economic Development Corporation


Chapter 1: The Leader's Way: An Introduction

  • The Nonprofit Leadership Advantage
  • Our Leadership Challenges
  • The Leaderful Organization
  • The Leader Transition Opportunity
  • The Leader Development Opportunity

Chapter 2: Managing the Power of Emotions

  • Transitions and Emotions
  • Handling Individual and Group Emotional Responses
  • Emotional Awareness Opens Options

Chapter 3: Founders and Founder Transitions

  • Understanding the Founder
  • How Founders Can Build Leaderful Organizations
  • Preparing the Organization for Founder Succession
  • Following the Founder

Chapter 4: Seeking Diversity Through Leader Development

  • Building Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Leadership
  • Generational Diversity
  • Meeting the Diversity Challenge

Chapter 5: Executive Transition Management

  • What Makes Successful Transitions
  • Key Transition Decisions
  • The Executive Transition Process
  • The Prepare Phase
  • The Pivot Phase
  • The Thrive Phase
  • Leader Development

Chapter 6: Getting Started on Succession Planning

  • Preparing for Succession Planning
  • Create an Emergency Backup Plan
  • Develop and Adopt a Succession Policy

Chapter 7: Departure-Defined Succession Planning

  • Four Phases of Planning
  • Advancing the Organization

Chapter 8: Leader Development and Talent Management

  • Examples of Leader Development and Talent Management
  • Leader Development—Personal Commitment and Actions
  • Paths to Leader Development and Talent Management
  • Launching a Talent Management Program
  • A Critical Leadership Strategy

Chapter 9: Many Paths to a Leaderful Organization

  • Promising Practices
  • Many Paths, Many Champions
  • Enjoy the Leader's Way—and Grow the Campaign


  • Appendix A: Executive Transition Management Tools and Worksheets Appendix B: Finding and Choosing a Consultant
  • Appendix C: Sustainability Audit
  • Appendix D: Leader Development and Talent Management Tools and Samples
  • Appendix E: Helpful Inventories


We Wrote the Books on Nonprofit Leadership Transition



The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide: Proven Paths for Leaders and Organizations      
by Tom Adams

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