Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Kim VanDerLinden

Second Supervisor

Seanelle Tracy


Most nonprofit organizations face a succession of leadership during the life of the organization if the nonprofit organization is going exist past the founding executive leader. Nonprofit organization leaders acknowledge the importance of succession planning; yet, succession planning in most nonprofit organizations is nonexistent. This study utilized interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore the meaning that seven nonprofit organization founding executive leaders assign to their experience with succession planning. The following themes emerged: (a) the creation and sustainability of the organization were driven by things greater than them, (b) there was an interdependent relationship between the founder’s identity and the organizational identity, (c) there was a desire and a belief that the organization should and will continue to exist past their tenure as executive leader, (d) there was a focus on the future, (e) there was an importance on institutionalizing the culture of the organization, and (f) there was an internal reconciliation between the connection to the organization founded and the work of establishing separation from the organization. The findings present an opportunity for founding executive leaders to focus on how their beliefs impact the extent to which they are thinking about, talking about, and engaging in succession planning in the organizations they created. The conscious knowledge of their character, feelings, motives, and desires about the organizations they created and the continued existence of these organizations is central to the founding executive leaders’ self-awareness and intention to engage in succession planning.

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