4 Things to Consider when a Leader Leaves your District

Personnel changes within district leadership bring its fair share of anxiety, but also a lot of opportunity. When people leave a district, there are changes in dynamics that are similar to what happens on a college or high school sports team.

Players on a team, no matter how much they care for and love each other, are engaged in a daily struggle against one another. They pit their skills against each other in order to get more playing time and/or to get better at their craft.

Good coaches look to provide opportunities for each member of the team to find and express their voice and to grow in a way that’s good for them and the team. It’s good for the team in the current season as it pushes all to get better and is needed for long-term health of the team. However, those voices need to play within a group dynamic. Average and poor coaches look to hold that dynamic in check. When players leave the team because they’ve graduated, new roles and voices are established. You hear constantly about how younger players are challenged to ‘step up’ and bring leadership as older players move on.

Players that deferred may come out a bit more and assert themselves. Those that were very comfortable may wonder what their place may be as new players (or coach) come in. The less cohesive the group (or the individual leaving), the more radical the changes are likely to be.

When a Superintendent, cabinet member or principal leaves their position due to promotion, opportunity at another school or district, or they were let go, faculty and staff naturally wonder what the future will hold. They look to leadership, and to one another, to make it through the eddies and currents of change. What will happen is different people will express their voice more, some will stay or move into the background. Some will get really anxious and possibly cause some disruption. Roles and communications will change and evolve and will again when a replacement comes in.

Here are some items to consider as you deal with such change:

  • A leader shouldn’t suppress, or even overtly manage, this process. Their job is to develop their team and help them grow as people; this is a major part of that process which will play out countless times over a career.
  • Create a stable environment where voices are encouraged to have themselves heard regularly.
  • Embrace and lean into the opportunities so the group can move ahead with vigor rather than be held up with political inertia and unproductive posturing.
  • Remember that your mission and strategic plan are still the foundation of what you do and why you do it. Good leaders will even be more intentional connecting to the plan and helping others stay on that track.

By allowing voices to be expressed during change, you are setting up the building blocks for greater growth in later years. Also, practicing alignment principles during this time can do wonders to bring an anchor during change and strong foundations for the future.

Changes bring opportunities. You and your staff should be open and receptive to how behaviors and actions adjust during unexpected change. It can create some nice opportunities for growth in the individuals, and the team.

How have you seen this play out in your environment?