Recently in discussion over a particularly difficult organization issue, I was told that “what we have is more than founder’s syndrome.”
The founder in question had recently admitted to thinking that he had Founder’s Syndrome with another steering committee member. The two had been in discussion about the negative behaviors for months before this admission came about.
What does that mean? Founder’s Syndrome describes the behaviors of a founder that negatively effect an organization. The specific behaviors range in severity, but their impact holds an organization back, often because change and growth are stifled.
For example, statements in steering committee meeting such as “I’m going to do what I want to do, because I want to do it” were not rare. Those statements typically arose almost any time the founder was asked to share more information about plans made or actions taken without the consent of the rest of the steering committee.
Actions such as taking over duties that were assigned to others, happened frequently. This resulted in duplicated efforts and additional time needing to be spend ‘cleaning up the mess’ as one steering committee member phrased it. In one case, the founder’s email to a donor that someone else was working with resulted in a check for $100 when the potential was $1000 plus media support.
Needless to say these actions as well as many others by the same person were frustrating to the other organization leaders.
Founder’s Syndrome is a typical problem in any small organization (and even some larger ones.) The energy and exuberance that helps to launch an organization are not necessarily the same qualities that continue its success once it is time to build more structure and organizational capacity. Change is difficult, throw into the mix someone who is incredibly passionate and may feel ownership over the organization, and you have a mess. How big is the mess? Well that depends on how the change and transition are managed and how difficult the founder.
While it always results is some kind of limit of capacity, in some cases Founder’s Syndrome can result in the failure of the organization. So, is it really possible to have ‘more than founder’s syndrome?’