Finding the right leader for your organization

Your long-term ED decides to retire. Your CEO is out of the clock. Or worst case scenario, you made the wrong hire and it took you two or three years to make the switch. Now you want it right. You want to know how to prepare for a successful search and are wondering if a search agency is the key.

There is no point in an organization’s life where it is more vulnerable than when the CEO is decided to move on. Today I want to talk about how a board of directors prepares an organization for a great quest, exponentially increasing its potential for success.

What do you need to do to help a recruiting firm understand the institution’s mission, culture and values? Does the search company have to meet with management before conducting a search?

My guest, Melissa Madzel, is the Managing Director of Equity Initiatives and Koya Partners, who claims her superpower is to find out who the smartest and most interesting people in the room are and introduce them to each other.

What are the elements that contribute to making great and diverse hires? Who should be on the search committee? How far in advance do you plan a hire? What are some of the most important elements in a candidate? When do you engage staff? And what are some of the DEI factors to consider, especially when taking on a leadership role?

Today, she answers these and more questions about the planning and scaffolding needed to build a leader for success.


As Managing Director Equity Initiatives for Koya Partners, Melissa is responsible for ensuring that Koya’s commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion is infused into every aspect of the company’s work with clients, candidates and staff. In leading this work, Melissa applies her experience as a search leader for numerous organizations, as well as her background in social work and human resource development.

Prior to this position, Melissa was Managing Director, Executive Search at Koya Partners, focusing primarily on identifying senior leaders for social justice organizations. Melissa led or conducted executive searches for organizations including: Innocence Project, Demos, Community Change, Foundation for a Just Society, MoveOn, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Hetrick-Martin Institute.

Through her previous work for nonprofits, Melissa developed a deep understanding of different nonprofit functions and organizational cultures. Prior to joining Koya in 2015, she held positions at UNICEF USA, Safe Horizon and Cities of Service. She also served as a Founding Corps member and program manager at City Year New York.

Melissa is a member of the Advisory Council of Equity in the Center, a national initiative committed to creating a more diverse and equitable talent pipeline in the social sector. She actively commits her time to provide coaching and mentorship.

Melissa holds a Masters of Social Work from the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her BA in Human Services and Theater Performance from Northeastern University.


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