So – your CEO is leaving, and you’re faced with the challenge of finding a new leader who’s the right fit for your organization. This may have been a planned exit, or an unexpected change of course: In either case, getting the right CEO/ED is key to the health of any organization, and no more so than in hospice, where mission is such a critical piece of the work we do.
In the past, hospice leaders most often came from the clinical world – nursing, counseling, or social work – with a business background. Today’s CEO needs a good grasp of not only the increasing emphasis on the business side of the organization, but also the clinical operations. While candidates don’t necessarily have to have MBAs, they must understand financials, profit and loss statements, and gross returns on investments. And with the new challenges we’re facing, entrepreneurial experience and attitude is as important today as it was at the beginning of the hospice movement.
Insider or outsider?
Your best option may already be waiting in the wings. An internal candidate who’s been groomed for the job is ideal. Identifying future leaders within your organization, and fostering people who want to move up should be ongoing. If you hire a CEO/ED from within, there should be a seamless transition when the change is made.
If no viable inside candidate exists, you’ll need to mount an executive search. Organizations reflect their leader’s personality, whether that’s bold and forward thinking, or conservative and risk-averse. A thoughtful, clear-eyed assessment of your organization’s aims, now and for the future, is key to making the right choice of leadership. Getting clarity around your mission, and these three questions will help you define your needs:
- What’s your vision? Is your organization looking to grow, or to maintain the status quo? Are you considering expansion into new areas or services?
- How’s your health? Is your organization stable and growing, or shrinking? Is it stagnant, or in financial trouble?
- What’s your culture? Is change embraced, or challenged?
Once your board members agree on a direction for the future, you can seek out the leader who can take you there.
And when you’re hunting for that next leader, you’ve got to be ready to look beyond the résumé: While experience, education and background are important, the more critical qualities are their character, values, personality, and passion for the work.
Next time, I’ll talk about some of the things that can go wrong in the search process – and how to avoid costly mistakes in hiring.