Books & Articles

Books by Tom Adams

The Nonprofit Leadership book cover

The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide
Proven Paths for Leaders & Organizations

Great nonprofits seem to hum. Passionate staff, dedicated board members, sensational outcomes, satisfied clients, and devoted donors tell the story. That story is leadership. But over the next five years, more nonprofit leaders will leave than ever before. Great nonprofits will need to sustain their success, while emerging ones will face wonderful new opportunities. The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide shows you how to seize the moment. Author Tom Adams shares secrets used with over 400 organizations over decades of experience as a leader and consultant. He’ll teach you to harness the power of emotions in transition, how great founders lead stellar transitions, and how to diversify leadership. You’ll see how to capitalize on the three critical stages of transition, how strategic succession plans lift the organization, why you must prepare today for emergency leaves, and what to do when the leader says, “it’s time for me to retire.” Finally, you’ll learn how to apply proven Fortune 500 talent management methods that help even the smallest organizations grow their own great leaders. The result: A better‐run, better‐prepared nonprofit—the kind of humming organization that inspires ongoing success.

Articles by Tom Adams

Lessons from Lois Wilson, a trailblazer in 12-step program development
Tom Adams, For The Baltimore Sun, March 3, 2021

If we were paying attention, we learned a lot in February about little known Black leaders who are part of the long chain in the fight for freedom and equity. In the women’s movement, there is a similar chain of little-known leaders who have and are building the bridge to women’s equality. One of them is Lois Wilson, whose 1891 birth we celebrate on March 4.

Given such an amazing contribution, why don’t we know much about Lois Wilson? While that is an interesting question, an even more important one is: What might we learn, about how to get out of our current national leadership and trust crisis, from Lois and the movement she helped lead?

Lois started out trying to get her husband Bill to stop drinking. She was sure her love for him would be enough. She tried everything to get him to stop. She organized trips to the mountains for weeks of hiking and camping. She prayed for him. She was patient with him. She got angry and threw things at him. None of it worked. Bill was drinking himself to death. Along the way, Lois suffered the humiliation of being turned down for adoption because of Bill’s drinking and was homeless living on couches of friends for three years after Bill stopped drinking.

Read the rest at

No room for failure: Investigating board leadership in nonprofit executive transitions
Amanda J. Stewart, Thomas H. Adams, Dennis McMillian, Julia Burns


Nonprofit boards are responsible for hiring executives, but may approach the task with limited guidance or experience. Evidence of a board’s leadership during a transition is found in their recruitment job ad or the announcement they make about the new executive’s appointment. Yet, we have limited empirical evidence of what happens behind closed doors as a transition is initiated and decisions are made. This study implemented a paired survey approach among a group of 94 organizational cases and their board members who recently were involved in a nonprofit executive transition. An initial survey was distributed when the board was in the midst or recently emerged from a transition, and a follow‐up was distributed a year later. Taken together, this descriptive, exploratory study offers insights about how boards face the daunting task of a leadership transition, including what boards prioritize for a transition’s outcome and executive recruits, the reasons for the approach they take in fulfilling this governance responsibility, and the outcomes derived from the transition. The findings inform propositions to advance research on board governance at this critical juncture for nonprofits.

Read the full text for free here.

About Tom Adams

Tom AdamsTom Adams writes and speaks on topics vital to the intersection of our personal lives with our community and global lives. He has for decades been engaged in and written about nonprofit leadership and transitions, spirituality and spiritual growth, how we each contribute to a more just and equitable world and recovery from addictions and the Twelve Step recovery movement.