Transitions in leadership can be challenging and complex, especially within nonprofit organizations where missions and visions deeply impact communities and stakeholders. Today, we have the privilege of exploring the intricacies of such a transition with Josh Wright, the outgoing CEO of ideas42, and Bridgette Gray, the incoming CEO. Both leaders shared their experiences, perspectives, and strategies to ensure a smooth and successful leadership handover.

Josh Wright, outgoing CEO, and Bridgette Gray, incoming CEO of ideas42

The Decision to Transition
Josh Wright has been at the helm of ideas42 for over 12 years, guiding the organization through significant growth and impact. As he explained, the decision to step down was driven by a desire to ensure the organization continues to thrive with fresh perspectives.

I’ve been fortunate to be leading ideas42 for the last 12 plus years. And I think it’s really important for leaders to leave too early rather than too late. And I felt like I still had energy and excitement and commitment to the organization. But I thought: I’m not sure I will in two or three years, so I should start the process now.

Josh said.

Josh recognized the importance of not only his own energy levels but also the need for new leadership to bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the table. This foresight and willingness to step down while still at the top of his game is a testament to his commitment to the organization’s long-term success.

The Attraction of ideas42
Bridgette Gray, with her rich background in social impact and workforce development, found ideas42 to be the perfect next step in her career. She was drawn to the organization’s holistic approach to behavioral science and its broad range of focus areas.

“My background has been in social impact. It’s been primarily around workforce and helping people get to the careers that give them economic, social mobility. And what attracted me to ideas42 is: It’s an organization where I have the ability to do all the things holistically in one place,

Bridgette shared.

She also appreciated the organization’s strong track record and the opportunity to lead its next iteration. “I have an opportunity to be able to see a vision for the next iteration of who we are, and I’m picking up where Josh left off. And being able to pick that up and run it; I absolutely love that,” she added.

Succession Planning and Execution
Effective succession planning is critical for a smooth leadership transition. Josh and the board at ideas42 took a meticulous approach, ensuring that the process was thorough and that Bridgette was well-prepared to take over.

“I told the board with a significant runway or lead time from when I actually wanted to have handed the organization off, so we had plenty of time to do a diligent process around the search, using a great search firm, planning out when Bridgette or the new CEO… before we knew it was Bridgette…would come in, you know, how long that process should likely be; to think about optionality in that process also,

Josh explained.

This methodical approach allowed for a seamless transition, avoiding any rushed decisions or unnecessary pressure. It also ensured that all stakeholders, including staff and donors, were kept informed and reassured throughout the process.

Building Trust and a Strong Partnership
A key factor in the success of this transition has been the strong relationship and trust between Josh and Bridgette. They have both emphasized the importance of humility, genuine care, and a focus on the organization’s best interests.

Bridgette noted,

It’s rooted in a genuine like for each other. Josh and I have become great friends. And it’s not often that that happens, but that means that there’s no ego present for either one of us. What we’re doing is for the good of the group, is for the good of the organization, is for the good of our work.”

This trust has enabled a collaborative and supportive transition, with Josh continuing to play an advisory role even after stepping down as CEO. This ongoing support has been invaluable to Bridgette as she navigates her new role.

Moving Forward with Vision and Innovation
As Bridgette steps into her new role, she has clear ideas about where she wants to take ideas42. She is focused on diversifying revenue streams and leveraging the organization’s strengths to create sustainable impact.

“I really want us to start to think about the diversification of our revenue. Right now, you know, we’re heavily dependent on philanthropy, which most nonprofits are, and obviously some government contracts. I really want us to think about what I call ‘unsold inventory.’ What are the things that we’re doing that we could actually be charging people for?

Bridgette explained.

She envisions standing up a Behavioral Science Innovation Lab and creating an earned revenue strategy to ensure the organization’s financial health and flexibility. This forward-thinking approach aims to position ideas42 as a leader in the field, driving innovation and impact.

For nonprofit organizations embarking on a similar journey, the insights shared by Josh and Bridgette offer valuable lessons on how to ensure continuity and foster progress during a leadership transition. As Bridgette aptly put it,

“Trust, humility, and genuine care and concern about the individual are ideal, and getting rid of the ego. There’s no place for ego.

To listen to the full interview or read the transcript, just click here.

Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Share This: