In Appreciation of the Interim ED

Especially in a Merger, an Interim ED Can Ease Executive Transition

An interim executive director can be a great idea for an organization whose incumbent leader has departed, or is planning to retire, and the board is considering whether to merge with another organization or to recruit its own next CEO. There is a natural rush to find a new leader in this situation, but the interim solution can give the board time to explore a partnership.

The interim ED needs to be someone who understands, however, that this is not an audition for a permanent job; I have seen that play out in some unhelpful ways. Most often the interim’s contract explicitly states that neither the organization nor the interim ED is interested in a permanent arrangement. Professional interim EDs get this; they strive to support the board in its decision making while keeping the trains running on time at the organization.

My first experience with the power of a good interim leader in this dynamic situation was back in my nonprofit CEO days. I was contacted by someone who was acting as interim for a neighboring organization. He said he was helping the board look for a merger partner. The merger was successfully negotiated some months later, and the interim ED’s role was invaluable.

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