Ep 96: The Telltale Signs of Founder Syndrome (Part 1) with Rachael Gibson

by Joan Garry

A fascinating discussion about the remarkable nature of founders, founder syndrome, and how do you get a founder to leave.


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An inability to share leadership. The tendency to hold information. Not knowing when to leave can all be telltale signs of founder syndrome.

How do you know when it’s time to go and who to call for help in guiding the thought process that ensues?

Rachael Gibson is a skilled change management consultant for nonprofit organizations and philanthropic institutions who specializes in founder transitions.

In part one of this fascinating two-part series, Rachael and I discuss the remarkable nature of founders, what exactly is founder syndrome, and how do you get a founder to leave.

About Rachael Gibson

Rachael serves as a practice leader and senior consultant for executive search, leadership transition planning and organizational strategy engagements. Rachael is a skilled change management consultant for nonprofit organizations and philanthropic institutions. Rachael has a particular expertise in working with organizations led by founders and long-tenured executives.

In prior roles, Rachael managed grant making programs and spearheaded numerous capacity building initiatives, including ones aimed at deepening the leadership development opportunities for nonprofit leaders, strengthening the back office systems for nonprofit organizations and evaluating the effectiveness of advocacy efforts. Rachael also developed a national coaching program for leaders of color and led multiple capacity building and evaluation projects for various government agencies. She has facilitated numerous collective action initiatives and led large program evaluation projects for grant making entities aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of their programs.

In addition to her management consulting expertise, Rachael has facilitated diversity and leadership development trainings, served on various nonprofit boards and task forces, and presented workshops at local and national conferences. She served on the board of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management. Rachael is also an Adjunct Professor at the Chicago School for Professional Psychology where she teaches Masters level students interested in the field of consulting and organizational development She received a Master’s Degree in Community and Urban Planning from the University of Maryland, College Park.

In this podcast

  • Transitioning from the personal perspective to the needs of the organization
  • How long should I stay? Have I stayed too long?
  • “What is this founder’s syndrome thing? AND DO I HAVE IT?”
  • When is it time to hire a leadership coach?
  • The bad choices made by boards
  • Should the outgoing ED/founder be involved in the search process?
  • Is there value in internal successions?