Avoiding the Glass Cliff: Advice to Boards on Preparing for and Supporting a New Leader of Color


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The Building Movement Project’s recent reports identified concerning trends in the way that nonprofit executive directors and chief executives of color experience their leadership roles, particularly when following an outgoing white leader. This resource offers insight and advice to boards about how to help avoid these pitfalls, both leading up to a transition and after a new leader is hired in three main sections:


Too many boards and organizations have not done the work of building an organizational culture that centers racial equity prior to hiring a new leader and — as a result — are leaving the work of advancing racial equity within their organization to a new leader of color. This places an incredible burden on new leaders and may make it difficult for the new leader to succeed in their new role.  This section covers ways boards can prepare to set a possible future leader of color up for success before a new leader joins the organization.


Once an organization is in a moment of transition, meaning they know that their current leader will be stepping down or leaving at a specific time, the board has an opportunity to ensure that the search and entire transition are handled in a way that prioritizes racial equity. Here, we’ll cover top priorities for the board during transition and search.


It is easy for a board to think that their job is done once a new leader is hired and they can step back. But — with any new leader, including a new leader of color — the board must support the new CEO/ED in a way that sets them up for success. This final section covers some good practices that your board will want to keep in mind.