The NRA’s Lack Of A Succession Plan

Healthy organizations have succession plans. Good leaders make it a priority. Development of future leaders is such an organizational imperative that it is usually under the purview of the CEO. Having a succession plan is both forward looking and a measure of risk management.

Think how many corporations and non-profits have lost their chief executives to heart attacks, cancer, and accidents. The list goes on and on.

This has been at the back of my mind regarding the NRA for a long time now. What brought it to the forefront was a post by Jeff Knox on the lack of new leadership options for the NRA and its cloudy future.

For almost a decade I’ve been asking people in the firearms and Second Amendment community to seriously consider who might take over as Executive Vice President of the NRA if Wayne LaPierre were to retire or be hit by a bus.

About 6 years ago I got really serious about that question and was raising the issue in my regular columns, then 3 and a half years ago, after the election of Donald Trump, there was talk that Wayne might be offered some sort of position within the Trump administration, and I was very actively asking people for suggestions of possible successors, or at least the qualities a successor would need in order to be successful and keep the NRA strong. Finally, last year all sorts of accusations of financial improprieties and self-dealing among LaPierre and other NRA executives, broke in major media, and a lot of people began asking the same questions I’d been asking for years, but the same answer kept coming back… Crickets.

Let’s look at the people that Jeff notes have been seriously mentioned as potential successors as Executive VP and CEO of the NRA.

Chris Cox.

Out. Through the machinations of either Wayne LaPierre or his erstwhile Rasputin, William Brewer III, Chris was labeled as having been a part of a “coup attempt”. This was always strongly denied by Chris and he eventually resigned.

Ollie North.

Out. Again, was accused of plotting to overthrow Wayne and again the fine hand of William Brewer III seems to have been involved. This happened after Ollie started asking too many questions especially with regard to Brewer. Wayne portrayed this as “extortion“.

Kyle Weaver.

Out. Weaver was the Executive Director of General Operations who got replaced by Josh Powell. He is now the President and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Weaver had spent 18 years with the NRA in positions of ever increasing responsibility. The RMEF gets a 4 star rating from the Charity Navigator which is the highest possible. By contrast, the NRA is under a “concern advisory” from them.

If you need an example of a corporation that had good succession planning, look at General Electric. It has been the focus of many case studies on how to do succession planning. Jack Welch who served as CEO of GE for 20 years was known for grooming potential successors. He did such a good job that those who lost out on succeeding him at GE where snapped up by other companies.

It isn’t just the CEO who should be responsible for succession planning. Professor Ram Charan who taught at both Harvard Business School and Northwestern University, had this to say on succession planning.

A CEO or board that has been in place for six or seven years and has not yet provided a pool of qualified candidates, and a robust process for selecting the next leader, is a failure. Everyone talks about emulating such best practitioners as General Electric, but few work very hard at it.

By all objective measures, the NRA Board of Directors has failed. They have no succession plan for Wayne. The majority of the board has kow-towed to Wayne and jumped when he said jump.

Part of the reason the board fails is structural and part is due to the composition. The structural issue is that the Board of Directors is too damn large to be effective. The other issue is that many on the board are there due to either celebrity status or allegiance to Wayne. It is the latter that is the greater problem. The board owes a duty of loyalty to the organization and not to any one individual.

In the short run, nothing can be done about the size of the board. However, the board can still start to work on a succession plan to Wayne. Based upon Wayne’s age of 70 alone, this needs to be done. My fear is that the board will do as it has always done. That is do nothing and the organization will continue to suffer while our blood enemies grow stronger.


6 thoughts on “The NRA’s Lack Of A Succession Plan”

    1. The final decision would have to be made by the entire BOD. However, I think the work on identifying candidates that might succeed WLP would be done by the Executive Committee.

      The only person that I’ve seen named that could possibly be thought as a successor on the BOD is Duane Liptak of Magpul. I have also heard rumors over the past months that Willes Lee has hopes of being the successor. It should be noted that Willes is, or will soon turn, 65. IMHO that is too old and I say that as a 63 y.o. Ideally the candidate would be in his or her late 40s or early 50s, have experience in managing a large organization, be politically savvy, be willing to fund raise, and not willing to accept the status quo.

      1. I agree with your last bit, but only when talking about a long-term replacement.
        I think that in the current situation, the ideal candidate would be a crotchety old goat who knows how to wield an ax, and who would only hold the position for a year or so. Let him come in and revamp the organization, then put it into the hands of a younger, longer-term CEO.
        The down-side of succession plans is that they can result in a cabal of corruption extending beyond the tenure of the current administration. Recall that Josh Powell was considered by many to be Wayne’s anointed one. Wouldn’t that have been dandy…?
        Ideally, you want a pool of possibles, that is reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

        1. I totally agree that you want a pool of possible candidates. That is what GE did in the past. Even in the GE case, it appears the best guy got the ax and went on eventually to Boeing to work wonders there.

          Unfortunately, I think it would take more than a year to clean house. However, an interim CEO whose only mission was to revamp the organization with the assurance he or she wouldn’t be there forever could be very well what is needed to right the organization.

  1. When I first glanced at the headline I read it as ” . . . Lack of Success Plan.” After reading the article, I think my headline may be better.

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