March 4, 2019

Filling the leadership vacuum

We're not even a quarter of the way through 2019, and yet it seems a whole class of business leaders have retired or announced their intentions to do so.

The list of who's moving on includes a number of long established leaders: Toni McGuire at Edward M. Kennedy Health Center in Worcester, Rick Bennett from Main Street Bank in Marlborough, Frances Anthes at the Family Health Center of Worcester, Paul Richard from SHINE Initiative in Worcester, Susanne Morreale Leeber of the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce, Kathy Hunter of YMCA of Central Massachusetts and Philip Grzewinski at the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts and the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

Retirements are a natural part of a healthy turnover in leadership, and as the old guard moves aside new blood gets to assert their vision and influence. Yet it seems the region's loss of institution knowledge is particularly acute among women leaders at nonprofits. In addition to the previously mentioned retirees, Joyce Murphy from Commonwealth Medicine at UMass Memorial Health Care, Jill Dagilis at Worcester Community Action Council, Pam Boisvert from Massachusetts Education and Career Opportunities Inc., Ann Lisi at Greater Worcester Community Foundation, Mary Ann O'Connor from VNA Care in Worcester, and Honee Hess at Worcester Center for Crafts have all recently stepped down or plan to transition out of their organizations in the immediate future.

Losing that many leaders is a big transition, yet it's also a moment to celebrate their accomplishments and support their successors. Bob Kennedy was suitably feted in his departure from Mechanics Hall and has been replaced by the facility's long-time second-in-command, Kathleen Gagne. After Dennis Rice retired from Alternatives Unlimited, the Whitinsville human services nonprofit merged to create the new Open Sky Community Services led by Ken Bates. Kevin O'Sullivan's departure from the Worcester incubator Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives led the way for Chief Operating Officer Jon Weaver. With Tim McGourthy leaving the Worcester Regional Research Bureau – although not through retirement but a job in the state's economic development office – the WRRB board has the chance to elevate someone who can play as big of a role in the economy as McGourthy has for the past 13 years.

Whether the successors to these power players are picked from inside the organization, are local people switching organizations, or are recruited through national searches, we have been fortunate to have a pipeline of talent to fill this leadership vacuum. Programs like Leadership Worcester and the Community Leadership Institute from the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce are helping to set the bar high for the next generation. More organizations are investing in leadership development and looking to grow the potential of their current team as recruiting new talent gets more difficult. These initiatives are critical to keeping our economic engine humming.

The names listed here are just a few of the many executives moving on in the coming year. We're in the heart of the Baby Boomer retirement cycle, so we should not expect any slow down in this trend for years. So to those who are heading to retirement and the pursuit of other interests, we wish you all the best. And for those new to the leadership mantle, keep your mentors close, be a be a good listener, and know you're in a community with a lot of support for what you're doing.


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