Setting intention during leadership transitions

So many thoughts, and questions.

Often, big questions don’t have easy answers. When feeling this way, I look to the thought and transformation leaders who inspire us to reflect and move forward.

This week I’m inspired by my friends who are engaging in dialogue with grace and gratitude … and perhaps a new-found strength and determination in speaking their truth. We are in a time of transition, and Wednesday night I found incredible inspiration and resolve as I spoke about my experience leading organizations through leadership transitions to an amazing group of students in Seattle University’s innovative MFA in Arts Leadership program.

At the end of this month I have the honor of concluding my ninth Interim Executive Director role. I get to navigate a familiar transition for me; physically shifting to new client work, while knowing energetically I will continue to think and care about the organization I am leaving. In this case it’s the Santa Barbara Symphony – who after 64 years is experiencing a momentum that’s catapulting their impact through education programs.

As a professional interim leader, I’ve chosen a role that means I constantly meet and help new people and communities to move forward towards a common goal. In some cases, the direction is clear and already known, and in other cases we must find it together. And always, it is setting this intention that provides the framework for how I lead organizations through empowering transitions.

What I’ve learned in all of these leadership roles is that during times of transition, there can be initial resistance, and sometimes that resistance is quite intense. People often need to just vent, talk about the past, or there may be concern, fear or even shame that a transition is happening.

It is because of this resistance and many practical “reasons” for getting things in order first, that they don’t believe advancing during transition is even possible. And yet – what’s the alternative?

To wait until a new leader is appointed before advancing the organization? To retreat, stay stuck, stagnant, blame others?   As non-profit 501(c)3’s face leadership transitions, our commitment to our community cannot be put on hold. What we do matters.

As a leadership coach, I work with clients to observe whether they are acting in alignment with standards they hold for themselves, or RE-Acting as current situations trigger feelings that remind them of something in the past. We must be mindful of the difference and choose. We also must always check in to see if our action (or RE-action) is moving us towards the goals we’re aspiring to.

Clearly, there are parallels here to our nation’s leadership transition – or perhaps this perspective is part of me still processing and wanting to understand and shift my intention from pre-election to post.

What are we aspiring to? What is our shared common goal? What are the embodied actions (thoughts, language, feelings, choices) that will GET us there, and what are the RE-actions that will not?

Meanwhile, as we search for these answers, and as we build momentum and clarity, we are beginning now, in this moment.

We must BE the leaders and people we want to be. We must hold up our standards for peace, justice, love.  So today, take a minute to identify what you are envisioning, set your intention, and then commit to doing your good work.

And if we are fortunate enough to work in the arts and culture industry – now more than ever – we must find ways to connect our country by doing what we do, and what we are meant to do.

With gratitude,


P.S. – If you’d like to have a candid conversation about an organizational or individual leadership transition, or just get more clear about YOUR best next steps to getting “unstuck,” schedule your complimentary clarity call with me here.

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