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San Diego State University

Student Life and Leadership

Officer Transitions for Student Organizations

photo: runners passing a batonOne of the most difficult things that occur at the end of one term and the beginning of another is the transition between leaders.  What happened last year? Is your organization reinventing the wheel every year? A thorough Leadership Transition plan will provide an organization with continuity so that next year's officers can build on the knowledge gained rather than starting from ground zero. 

When Do You Start?  Early!  Begin early in the year to identify emerging leaders.  Encourage these potential leaders through personal contact; help in developing skills, delegating responsibility to them, sharing with them the personal benefits of leadership, clarifying job responsibilities, letting them know that transition will be orderly and thorough, and last, modeling an open, encouraging leadership style.  Here are some ideas to help ensure that this transition occurs as smoothly as possible.

Officer Transition Resources

Incoming and Outgoing Officer Reflection Worksheet  

Benefits of a Successful Leadership Transition

  1. Provides for transfer of significant organizational knowledge.
  2. Minimizes the confusion of leadership changeover.
  3. Gives outgoing leaders a sense of closure.
  4. Utilizes the valuable contributions of experienced leaders.
  5. Helps incoming leadership absorb the special expertise of the outgoing leadership.
  6. Increases the knowledge and confidence of the new leadership.
  7. Minimizes the loss of momentum and accomplishment for the group.

Checklist of Suggested Tasks for Outgoing Officers

  • Create and update a Transition Binder, either in hard copy or digitally, throughout the entire year.
  • Organize your office, materials, thoughts, etc.
  • Finish all correspondence that you can.
  • Prepare an end-of-the-year report incorporating the organization's goals, activities, and accomplishments.
  • Using the invaluable hindsight that you now have, identify the areas of responsibility, people, details, phone numbers, etc. that you wish someone had told you when you took office.
  • Review the Organization's constitution, by-laws, written material, and goals and outline any areas needing attention or revision.
  • Incorporate a formal transition into your Constitution and bylaws to ensure the continuity and effective functioning of the organization.
  • When new officers have been elected, orient them together as a group with all of the outgoing officers.  Include the organization's advisor in this process as well.  Try going on a retreat together.  This process provides the new leaders with an opportunity to understand each other's roles and to start building their leadership team. Outgoing officers should openly share what they believe went well and what they would change if they had it to do over again.
  • Make introductions to resources.  Schedule time to walk around campus with the new officers and introduce them to important people who can serve as key resources (Student Life and Leadership, Student Organizations, Aztec Center Meeting Services, etc.).  In addition, make sure new officers meet with the organization's faculty/staff advisor.
  • Do not “drop off the edge of the earth” - be available for consultation.

Checklist of Suggested Tasks for Incoming Officers

  • Read Transition Binder and previous executive reports. Become familiar with the general history of the organization and its recent activities. Remember you need to know all of the little details as well as the big picture.
  • Determine training and guidance you will need from the outgoing officers. This may not always be obvious, (e.g., it may be necessary for an incoming President to meet with the outgoing Treasurer).
  • Make a list of the above information (general history, recent activities, goals, procedures, etc.) you might need to know to be successful.
  • Try to generate more than one resource for each item that you want to learn about.
  • Make appointments with key people.