How to Get Ready For a New College President

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Fear of the unknown

It’s fascinating to me how the pending arrival of a new President triggers people’s insecurities and fear of the unknown. Legitimate concerns are often blown out of proportion while opportunities for positive change tend to be forgotten.

Those who experience more fear than enthusiasm often believe that they have no control over what will happen, which automatically creates strong discomfort. They may think some of the following thoughts.

“We really liked our President. No one else can lead the way he/she did. It’s a terrible loss for our campus community.” Or “We’ve had so many problems with our last President(s). What if the new one is even worse?”

“We don’t know what will change. What if the new President wants to restructure and eliminate my position? What if he/she is not supportive of my department? What if he/she doesn’t like me? What if he/she wants to bring their people here and take control of all major decisions?”

“I am going to lose the comfort and security I had. I may have to prove myself all over again. What if the new President has unrealistic expectations and I can’t be good enough for him/her? I don’t trust my ability to handle the changes ahead.”

Choosing an empowering perspective

Anyone who is consumed by fear will hurt their chances of making a good first impression and of developing a strong relationship with the new President early on. Think of how you feel when you meet someone who seems fearful, insecure, or negative. Now, think of how you feel when you meet someone who appears confident, friendly, and collaborative? Which one of the two would you choose to bring into your circle?

So you see your best approach is to start by working on yourself. Don’t let your mind go into dark places. Instead of fearing what you cannot control, start focusing on what you can do about the situation. Focus on ways a change in leadership can allow you to serve at a higher level. Think about how it can bring positive changes to your campus. Find reasons to be genuinely happy about the arrival of your new President.

Your future President is human too

Remember that your future President is a human being with his/her own fears and concerns. Realize that this person wants to succeed at their job and would prefer harmony over conflict. I have coached new Presidents and I promise you that nobody ever said “I am going to have fun torturing people, messing with their minds, and taking away what they care about.

What they want is to bring their expertise and dedication to a campus where they will be able to make a difference. They know all too well how precarious their job can be and their intention is not to initiate conflict. Mistakes and errors in judgement are not intentional. You and the rest of the leadership team will have countless opportunities to influence your new President.

Leaders have many reasons for choosing to step into a Presidency and if your new President is more interested in service and excellence than in status and ego, you are going to love working for him or her. A new President is not someone to fear but someone to listen to and learn from, so that you can show support and become an asset to his executive team.

How do you think others perceive you?

For a quick moment (don’t linger and don’t beat yourself up!) listen to your insecurities. What makes you feel vulnerable? What aspect of your work performance, department accomplishments, leadership style, or career path are you afraid to be judged on? If you have a guilty conscience, let this be your wake up call. It’s time to step up, and not just for your new President but for yourself, your team, and the people you serve.

Interestingly, when I ask this question to my clients, they almost never have concerns that a new President would bother asking about. They tend to project their insecurities on others but nobody cares about the little things on their minds. It is just a reflection of regrets they have carried for a long time and need to release.

Position yourself for success

You too, might be judging yourself based on criteria that are not important to anyone else. So instead of fixating on your insecurities, start thinking about what a new President would want to know. How well is your department doing? What is your vision for the next year or the next five years? What metrics do you use and what data can you present if asked? What are some of your proudest moments and success stories? It is important for you to acknowledge all the talents and accomplishments you bring to the table so that you realize you have nothing to fear.

It is also essential for you to do some soul searching and gain clarity on your values, your goals, and what makes you unique. What do you want to be known for? Is your behavior aligned with your values? Do you walk the talk? Learn to know yourself better and make sure your decisions and actions are congruent with your values.

A word of caution

You might be surprised that I didn’t write anything about creating your own agenda and using the change in leadership to make it happen. It’s because I don’t know who your next President will be but I bet he or she is smart and has life experience! Your new President will be able to smell attempts at manipulation from a mile away. Brown nosers repel outstanding leaders and are hard to trust.

If you really want to build a solid relationship my advice is to put your agenda and your ego aside, at least for now. Be here to give rather than take. Be an asset. Once your President really knows you and your motivations, he/she will be supportive of you too. Your most important goal should be to build trust. Your new President wants people he or she can trust. Be that and the rest will follow!

The fact that you clicked on this article tells me that you want to continue to improve your leadership skills and develop a strong relationship with your President. I want to help you build confidence and deepen your expertise. This change in leadership on your campus will have strong implications on your job, your direct reports, and your future career. Let’s work together to make this time of transition a successful one. Click here to make an appointment for a free phone consultation. I look forward to meeting you.

About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits.  Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset. For more information and free resources visit

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