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Dissertation Abstract

Exploring the Intentions of Founders and Long-Term Executives: A Qualitative Look at Succession Planning in Human Service Organizations

David A. Wright
August 2010

As baby boomers reach retirement age, there is concern about what this may mean for the organizations they lead. There could be a significant impact if this population of senior leadership retires or leaves their current positions. A body of research has shown the possibility of looming crisis. Organizations of all genres are currently facing a range of leadership development challenges that may create diminished resources of experienced talent for senior leadership positions and, ultimately, succession. Continuity of services is an essential facet in the human service field; therefore, succession of leadership in human service organizations (HSOs) is linked to its sustainability and success. Although the need for succession planning and management is often acknowledged, succession activities are not present in most organizations. Consequently, there is a demand to further explore the why behind the actions of organizational leaders regarding succession and leadership development activities in their organizations. This study used the qualitative method to examine the intentions of leaders in HSOs to (a) develop and implement succession activities, (b) implement leadership development strategies, and (c) retire or transition out of their leadership positions. The sample was derived from the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), a national organization of human service providers. ANCOR's participation in previous studies on succession practices has provided findings that were further explored in this study. The theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991) served as the theoretical background in the exploration of leader intentions through the use of semistructured interviews. Interviews were conducted utilizing face-to-face, phone, and electronic methodologies.