Several years ago, a foundation client of mine sent me to a national conference of foundations where I met the President and CEO of the Durfee Foundation in California. Durfee's primary capacity building/leadership development strategy was a well-planned sabbatical for the CEO that forced the leader to delegate and grow the rest of the staff leadership team. That conversation has stood out in my mind since then and I have mentioned it to many people. Now a study has been completed that validates their strategy.
Sabbaticals for nonprofit leaders can be a relatively inexpensive but highly productive capacity-building tool that yields measurable results. "Creative Disruption: Sabbaticals for Capacity Building and Leadership Development in the Nonprofit Sector" provides emerging evidence of the benefits to nonprofit organizations, leaders, funders, and the sector.
This study exposes the myth that an executive sabbatical will be a chaotic disruption, finding instead that the creative disruption of a well-planned sabbatical can be productive for the entire leadership of an organization.
Organizational capacity is increased as the second tier of leadership takes on new responsibilities. Governance is strengthened as a result of the planning and learning that goes with a sabbatical process. Executive directors come back rejuvenated, with a fresh vision and innovative ideas, and tend to extend their tenure with the organization. And funders gain a deeper perspective on community needs from the feedback, networking, and innovative ideas that sabbatical alumni bring.
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