Jackie Eder-Van Hook, Fielding's School of Human and Organizational Development
This retrospective descriptive study explores the experiences of 13 professional external interim executives (from a qualifying pool of 29) providing interim management to U.S. nonprofits and associations during leadership successions derived from 2-hour, one-on-one, semi-structured telephone interviews. It examines intersection of the interim management and transition literatures.
Interim management is the use of temporary CEO and executive-level consulting services (organization development, change management) by organizations during a leadership vacancy. Using an interim CEO allows organizations to take stock of their assets (fiscal, human, relationships, goodwill) and liabilities (business model, debt, sometimes founders); address simple and complex issues; and prepare the organization, board of directors, staff, and stakeholders for the future. These temporary executives are part of an expanding contingent workforce found in for-profit, nonprofit, academic, and government entities in the US and abroad.
The study highlights the ambiguous role of external interim executives as a hybrid leader—part leader, teacher, crisis manager, organization development practitioner, therapist, and consultant, and describes the complex environments in which they work. Participants described their entry and exit from the organization, organizational issues, communications, relationships (especially with the chair of the board of directors and its effect on the transition), governance, including governing board decision-making, and self and organizational assessments.
Further, the study provides new evidence in contrast with Goler’s 2003 study on acting staff and the focus placed on the incumbent’s departure and executive search by Farquhar (1991), Gabarro (1987), and Gilmore (1988).
The study summarizes 21 key transition models and offers a new transition theory. Executive transitions are defined as the manner in which individuals and organizations cope with and accept a change in “life space” and/or their work environment. A successful transition is dependent on the people involved, the reason for the transition, the environment, and whether the individual and/or organization used this period to reflect, learn from the situation, and affect change.
Key words: executive transition, transitions, interim executive, interim management, leadership succession, executive succession, nonprofits, associations, governance, board of directors, executive, CEO, acting director, interim director, temporary staff, contingent workforce, organization development