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Entering and Exiting as the CEO

By Tavia Evans Gilchrist

March 1, 2007

Shortly after Andy LaVigne joined Florida Citrus Mutual as CEO in 1999, a third of his staff resigned from the $2 million industry group.  

It’s a familiar scene in many associations after a CEO transition – key staff exit, positions and roles are shuffled and the new chief takes steps to imprint their leadership style and a new direction for the organization. 

Transition in the CEO role can rock an association, and often it’s the job of the new CEO, with help from the old one, to ensure the organization doesn’t capsize.

Many longtime CEOs compare the transition process to a divorce for an organization that is accustomed to the culture and leadership style fostered by the departing CEO and forced to adapt to a new one.

“The staff are afraid and they don’t know what’s going to happen with the new person,” said Bob Van Hook, CAE, president of Transition Management Consulting, Inc.  “Their primary concern is, ‘Will the new person be a tyrant and is my job going to be safe.’”