New Leaders: Prepare for Your Journey

Part 1: Building Relationships

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

Have you accepted a new leadership opportunity? There are probably many feelings running through you right now: excitement, worry, joy, overwhelm and so much more on any given day and even in any given minute. Having been a new leader and new to school communities many times over, I have learned from my mistakes and from the things that worked well. The way you enter a community and begin your journey as a leader is important. This should be intentional work that is thoughtfully carried out with the purpose of learning about the community you are entering and making connections. 

Building Relationships is at the core of introducing yourself to a community and a key way for you to get to know a community. This is time well spent even if it takes the entire year. Meeting one on one with your direct reports as you enter your school community is an essential first step. 


  • Set up one on one meetings with all your direct reports. 
  • Attend team meetings, parent meetings, and student meetings.
  • LISTEN. During all these interactions your role is the listener. Listen and learn about the people in your community.
  • Be visible. Attend events. Be present at drop off and pick up times. Visit classrooms. 
  • Learn about the community on your own. Do some research. For example, get a recent yearbook and get familiar with faces and names of the people in the community. Read admissions files, school reports, strategic plans, and other helpful documents.

Strong relationships lead to trust. When you have trust, you can have challenging conversations and the relationship can likely stay intact. When you have not built relationships and you enter a difficult conversation, the lack of a relationship can make the conversation more challenging and it can break trust. To this end, developing relationships with the families in your community is also vital. The small interactions and conversations you have with families as you enter the community will be the building blocks you will call upon when you need to have a challenging conversation about their child or you need to ask for support.

As you step into a new leadership position, you may find yourself wanting to  jump into problem solving. It makes sense. You want to prove yourself right away by making effective changes.  In fact it is crucial to consider a focus on relationship building. Slow down. Get to know who is around you and let them get to know you. This is a good first step in your journey.