My Presidential Transition: Can We Learn from Our Mistakes?

Thu, May 18, 2017 11:07 AM | Anonymous member

For the last two years I’ve served as board president of the Chesapeake Down Syndrome Parent Group in Baltimore. I transitioned into the position closer to three years ago from a burned-out president who was more than ready to move on. He asked me as vice president to take on more of the president’s duties so I could get acquainted with the roles and responsibilities of the position. When I started writing the agendas and leading the meetings, he started checking out. Don’t get me wrong, my predecessor is a great guy who led the board with fervor and determination for a long time, so I understand that when he got his chance to take a break, he made a break for it.

At the time of his early departure, I was not intimidated or overwhelmed. I was ready to take the helm. I had ideas and a passion for the mission and charged to inspire our leaders and volunteers to do great things for Down syndrome.

It’s two and a half years later, and I’m nearing my exit. I think I’ve been an effective leader, and I’ve had a lot of fun. But I’m also tired and want to move on to other things (like being director of membership and marketing for DSAIA). When I took the position in 2015, I knew I wanted to serve only two one-year terms. At the time, Chesapeake was an all-volunteer association and the commitment is extremely time consuming. I saw countless past board members burn out after their many, many years of service, and never return as a volunteer. This was not going to be me.

I started to search for the next president at least a year before my time was up. Every board member who I thought could successfully transition into the president position received my best pitch. Not an iota of interest. Some board members (like the ones who said no to president) encouraged me – even begged – to stay on one more year. But I held true to my initial commitment. I didn’t believe anything was going to change in that year that would inspire one of our leaders to emerge as president. Plus I wanted to stay on good terms with my family.

About two months before my term would end in June 2017, I made a last-ditch call to an incredibly qualified candidate: a board member who had only been on the board for less than a year but a long history with the Chesapeake Down Syndrome as well as in leadership outside the organization. I made my pitch. I was going to convince this guy no matter what that he was the best person for the job. There was silence. And he finally said “I was actually waiting for you to contact me about this.” Needless to say, he took the job.

I’m just weeks away from stepping down, and I’m actively working with our incoming president to inform him of important issues, go over protocols, share some dirty laundry and of course answer his myriad of questions. I have committed to stay on the board as immediate past president, to further help our new president step up with energy and confidence as well as take on a couple of small board development projects. My previous transition experience has certainly influenced my involvement in this transition. My presidency has been marked by many accomplishments and met goals, but I know I could have been even more focused and effective if I had access to continued guidance and support of the past president.

>>> Do you have your own transition story? Are you anticipating a transition at your association? Need to vent about a transition gone wrong? <<<

On Wednesday, May 24 at 8 p.m. ET, DSAIA member leaders will be talking transition during the Topical Call: Dealing with Board/Staff Transitions. 

REGISTER NOW to guarantee a spot on the call because space is limited. Topical Calls are for DSAIA Members ONLY and will not be recorded or be available in the listening archive.

I want to tell you what WONDERFUL time I had at the conference. I learned so much and came away with lots of ideas for our organization. -Barb Waddle, The Upside of Downs of Northeast Ohio


Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action started as a conference bringing together outstanding leadership from Down syndrome organizations around the country. Learn More

Get in Contact

Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action
7200 E. Hampden Ave. Suite 301  Denver, CO 80224



Monday - Friday
8 am - 5 pm Central

Member Access

Click Here

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software