The third step for a board recovering from a self-inflicted wound

The board of the Jacksonville Symphony is following the time-honored
score for hard-ass boards. First they force the musicians out on the
street, then they settle after inflicting a great deal of pain on the
musicians and significant damage to the institution of which they are
the custodians. Then they fire the executive director:

James Van Vleck, chairman of the symphony’s board, informed the symphony and board of directors in an e-mail Wednesday.

“After intensive and extensive discussions and assessment of the
leadership needs of the Jacksonville Symphony Association at this
critical time, the Executive Committee determined that new, fresh
leadership would give the association the greatest chance for success
in the years ahead,” the e-mail read.

"We have discussed this with Alan Hopper and he agrees that a change is in his, and the association’s, best interests.”

Hopper said he had begun thinking about leaving before negotiations started, but the contract difficulties were part of his decision.

“I knew it was going to be somewhat contentious,” he said. “I did think that with the offers we had on the table, we wouldn’t have to go through that.

“I just think it was a very difficult process for everyone to go through. There’s a lot of healing for everyone in the institution. Not that I couldn’t do it, but new and fresh leadership would be best to move things ahead much quicker.”

Hopper also didn’t know what he’d do next.

“Everything is open in my mind,” he said. “I don’t have any predisposed thoughts on it. I’ve looked at the ministry, something that would be more fulfilling. I guess I’m waiting for that message on high.”

A very similar thing happened here in 1994. The board pushed out the former executive director, who was viewed as being overly expansionist, hired his #2 to replace him and downsize the institution, got more than they bargained for when a huge public fight erupted, and showed the ex-#2 and then-#1 the gangplank after the settlement.

"Scapegoat" is probably too strong a term. But there is an sense in both instances of a board blaming the CEO for not stopping them from doing something stupid.

And, to be fair, that is part of a CEO’s job. It helps if the board lets them do it, though.

(Flyover at ArtsJournal has much more on this; it’s very interesting reading.)


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