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Because of my community organizing and teaching background, I’m sometimes asked for general advice by people who are considering applying for administrator positions and people who are new to the job.

They are mainly people I know who are applying for – or new to – positions at individual schools or mid-level district spots.

Extremely rarely, I have been asked that question by very high level district administrators. On those rare occasions, my general advice has never been followed.


For what it’s worth, here is the basic advice I offer when asked:

Lead with your ears and not your mouth:

Don’t enter a new position and immediately start implementing all the “great” ideas you’ve been thinking about. Spend your initial months listening to other educators, parents and students. Find out their perspectives on your institution – its strengths and weaknesses – and how it can be improved. Learn the hopes and dreams they have for themselves and for their families, and how your institution can be an asset to their realizing them. You will learn a lot of great ideas, build a lot of relationships with people who can help you implement them, and start off very well-respected.

Prioritize making others look good:

Look for opportunities to appropriately give credit for others and not yourself.  If you want to be a truly transformative leader, you are not going to be able to make things happen by yourself, so it should be easy to lift up others.  As the saying goes, “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.”


What advice would you give to new administrators, or those seeking those positions?