Sunday, July 06, 2008

Time to go: Bill Gates, Founders’ syndrome and good governance

As Bill Gates logs off from the hands-on management of Microsoft, perhaps his example will be followed by others, including one or two pioneers in the third sector, handing over to others. He is moving on, although not far, to the non-executive role of chair.

The founders’ syndrome is a recognised sickness in the third sector. There are few things sadder than a good (or even great) organisation going wrong (or even bad) due to an often-inspirational founder losing their way. Charismatic personalities who can provide the energy, direction and leadership that start-ups need in any sector are often not those best suited to letting go when they should.

Treating founders’ syndrome is inherently difficult. Founders are unlikely to self-medicate and hand over to new leaders. The need for an effective board is obviously essential – yet, dominant personalities are unlikely to have developed such a counter-weight. While I believe strongly in the autonomy of the third sector, funders and regulators should be require the good governance that enables organisations to deal with their own problems.

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