How to transition leadership
Think of your chapter as a campus legacy, with the power to make a vital contribution to the end of hunger for years to come. Unleashing that power, however, requires successful leadership transitions from one year to the next.
Here are some steps and resources that can help ensure smooth leadership transitions, so that the chapter you’ve worked so hard to build lives on!
A step-by-step guide
A good place to begin the process is to determine when you’d like your leadership transition to occur. Some chapters transition leaders at the end of the school year, while others prefer the beginning of the spring term. For more about the advantages of each approach, check out this resource document: When to Transition Chapter Leadership.
Leadership transitions are a great opportunity to incorporate into the leadership structure what you have learned during the past year. As a leadership team, reflect on your experience. What has worked well? What changes are needed?
Articulate the specific expectations, requirements, and commitments of serving on the leadership team. Then, write down the titles and responsibilities of each position.
If there are any eligibility requirements for a person to run for a leadership position, be sure to include them.
For an overview of the roles and responsibilities of the five main leadership positions check out this page: Chapter Leadership Structure.
The next step is to ensure as many qualified people as possible step forward, and that you have a clear and well thought-out application process. For a rundown on some great recruitment strategies, see Leadership Transitions – Recruiting. For some guidance on the application process, and a sample leadership application, see Application Guidelines.
Once you have your candidates, a logical, transparent and fair process for voting comes next. This resource can help guide you through the process: Leadership Transitions – Holding Elections.
Once you have the election results, they need to be communicated to:
1. the candidates – including those who were NOT elected
2. the chapter as a whole
3. your advisor or other key campus contacts
4. your Changemaker Ignitor – via “Submit Your Leadership Contact Information” action on Cheese World (a responsibility of your chapter president).
How you communicate the election results is important. Start by notifying all the candidates—by phone whenever possible (it’s more personal). First call those who were elected to make sure they are going to accept the position. Be sure they know to stay quiet until the people who were not elected are informed. Only once all of the candidates have been notified of the results should you make a public announcement of the new leadership team.
One of the easiest ways to ensure the new leaders can hit the ground running is to thoughtfully and thoroughly bring them on board. As you put your transition plan together, consider:
Holding a Retreat: Consider creating a space—like a potluck or mini-retreat—where outgoing and incoming leaders can review the position description document you put together in step two, and where the outgoing leader can answer questions, share learning, go over contacts and resources, and offer encouragement. Note: this will require some preparation work from the outgoing leaders!
Having an Apprenticeship Program: An apprenticeship program is where incoming leaders spend a week or more accompanying the outgoing leaders as they perform their leadership tasks. The goal is not just to pass on knowledge of the position’s specific responsibilities, but also to begin passing on the relationships that are crucial to that position’s success. Since all your partners are transitioning with you, take the time to get those new relationships off to a strong start.
A leadership transition is a critical moment for your chapter as a whole. If you have a retreat, an evening potluck, or some other kind of transitional gathering, take time to celebrate everyone: outgoing leaders, incoming leaders, those who applied but did not get elected, and everyone else. It’s important that EVERYONE feel appreciated and valued.
Check out this resource for a really great celebration activity: Circle of Gratitude.