TregoED Blog

“Passing the Baton” – Four Steps for Internal Leadership Transitions

There seems to be an unprecedented rate of turnovers in district leadership around the country.  A changing of the guard, so to speak, can lead to consternation and anxiety within any organization.  Ensuring a successful leadership transition is important not only to the stakeholders involved but, because the whole process can create instability, to the organization overall.

How does a new leader maximize the opportunities of the leadership transition and manage it effectively from beginning to end?

Internal Transistions offer Excellent Opportunities

During the late spring, there was a “passing of the baton” between the new director (who had only been on staff as assistant director for 9 months) and the exiting director of the Exceptional Children’s Program in the Alamance-Burlington School District in North Carolina.  They gathered a group of representative leaders within their division and developed a transition plan using the following steps:

  1.  Identify issues that need to be addressed to ensure the effective transition of leadership.
  2. Build an action plan to address the top priority issues.  Also included with specific actions were staff responsibilities and timelines.
  3. Identify areas of greatest vulnerability and opportunity with the leadership transition.
  4. Develop a preventive and contingent action plan around key potential problems, and a promoting/capitalizing action plan around key opportunities.

The transition roll-out plan had a major emphasis on communication – internal and external (other district departments, schools, parents/community), building relationships and trust.  With actions to be executed, there was a sense of clarity, consistency and accountability.  Lastly, but so important, there was reduced anxiety among the leadership team members and confidence that the leadership transition was going to be successful.  Kudos to this EC leadership team, who used a logical and clear thinking process, to ensure a smooth “passing of the baton” so that the new team could “run with it.”

How have you managed internal leadership transitions in your role as a district or school leader?