The process of leadership transition can change important relationships, such as the those with volunteers, stakeholders, and peer organizations. Refocusing or readjusting the historical association mindset and redirecting processes from “this is the way we’ve always done it” to “this is a new way we can do it” can be perceived as a threat. Is this narrative automatically true, or can new leadership approaches provide continuity to achieve the organization’s mission and goals?
I believe Benjamin Disraeli’s adage “Change is inevitable. Change is constant.” I’ll take this saying further: Change in leadership is inevitable; preparing for leadership change promotes continuity and a successful transition. I conceptualize leadership transition to the five steps undertaken when building a bridge.
Step one: Establishing the foundation.
As the base of the structure, the foundation distributes the load of the bridge. Staff and senior leadership are ASWB’s foundation, and their work supports the association’s mission and goals. Because of their dedication, ASWB accomplished never-before product and financial achievements in 2017. This foundation is the base allowing positive transition of leadership.
Step two: Building supports.
Supports maintain bridge stability and are affixed, one on each shore. As president-elect, one of my supports was being invited to participate in the biweekly leadership meetings between the CEO and ASWB’s president. By engaging in their high-level discussions, I observed an important process and learned what the role of president entailed.
Step three: Assembling the superstructure.
Metal beams laid between foundation pilings form the bridge deck. My appointment to the Finance and Nominating committees and the Membership Task Force gave me an understanding of ASWB’s volunteer superstructure. Engaging in Finance Committee discussions about financial matters afforded me the opportunity to appreciate the financial stability of the association. Serving on the Membership Task Force, which was charged with responding to concerns brought by ASWB members, gave me experience in demonstrating the Board’s responsibility to membership by recommending a restructuring of member board dues.
Step four: Pouring the slab.
Once the superstructure is complete, multiple reinforcing beams are installed and a thin layer of concrete is poured. The equivalent leadership preparation was my attendance at ASWB Board of Directors meetings, which promoted my understanding of the Board’s governance responsibility and allowed me to experience the talents and skills that each Board member brought to the table on behalf of the association.
Step five: Laying asphalt.
The final step is to lay asphalt on the deck, which is used because of its ability to expand and contract. By the end of my year as president-elect, I had gained valuable insights that will allow me to adjust in my term as president. Observing the hard work of ASWB staff and senior leadership provided me the foundation to trust their dedication to ASWB’s mission. Attending leadership meetings was one of the supports forming the basis of how I will work with the CEO. Service on committees and the Membership Task Force developed my understanding of the superstructure provided by ASWB volunteers. Engagement with the ASWB Board of Directors gave me a contemporary understanding of governance responsibility. I believe my time as ASWB president-elect has built a bridge providing for continuity in the midst of the change of leadership.
Timothy Martel Brown, MSW, LCSW, ACSW