Today is my first official day as Interim Executive Director for UC Berkeley’s Center for Social Sector Leadership (CSSL), within the Haas School of Business. CSSL supports leadership opportunities for students interested in achieving social impact. I’ve collaborated with the Center over the past few years – as a nonprofit CEO whose organization benefited from the Bears on Board program and more recently teaching a course on Social Entrepreneurship for undergraduates. Nora Silver, the Center’s founder and Faculty Director, had reached out to me about serving as the Interim ED after spotting my LinkedIn post announcing my availability as an Interim leader, post-completion of Third Sector’s Interim Executives Academy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “interim-ing” as a theoretical construct, so it is both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking to actually begin doing it. I am hyper-aware of how the role is distinct from a traditional ED job and curious to see how I do in resisting old patterns and simply falling into doing what I know. I am hopeful my prior experience will be useful, but concerned that as I bring that to bear, I do so in service of building CSSL's organizational capacity.
One of the books that sparked my interest in interim roles was Arthur Brooks's From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life. I am a somewhat unlikely Arthur Brooks fan, and yet the book really captured my imagination – specifically his explanation of the psychological concept of crystallized vs. fluid intelligence. Since stepping down as CEO at Playworks in 2020, I have worked on a number of interesting and engaging projects, and I was deeply appreciative of the flexibility to be present with my father as he was dying and now, to support my mom in the aftermath of that. Over the past several months, I began feeling the need to be more deeply connected in the world and to more concretely contribute. Brooks's book offered vocabulary about those feelings - namely a pressing need to be more useful.
I’ve had many conversations over these past couple of years around leadership transitions and succession planning. We're in a moment of upheaval for the nonprofit sector with a record number of founders retiring and a much-needed focus on increasing BIPOC leadership. Transitions are, by definition, periods of great vulnerability, and these shifts in our sector both deserve and require a level of attention and intention that set new leaders and organizations in transition up to succeed. It is simply not an option to do this half-heartedly and then shake our collective heads in disappointment that it didn’t work out.
Today, I am setting out to be an interim ED at a center dedicated to understanding social sector leadership with an eye to learning, amplifying the potential for good in the transition process, and connecting with others who are interested in doing the same. I’m bound to make some mistakes along the way and am hoping to have some fun, too. I invite you to connect, follow along and make suggestions. I am convinced that this is an important capacity for our sector to master and that we are most likely to achieve that mastery together. Wish me luck – and Go Bears!
People need meaning, the opportunity for mastery, and community to thrive. Creating opportunities for people to contribute, and to find their best selves is some of the most important work we can do.