What To do If You Are Intimidated by Your Predecessor


Replacing a much-loved leader

During your job search, you made sure to look into colleges’ culture and employee morale because it was important to you to join a healthy campus and not a dysfunctional one. Your instincts were right. The institution you chose is healthy, employees are engaged, and as far as you can tell there are no major red flags. People seem to work well together and have wonderful things to say about your predecessor. In fact, the only complaint you hear is how much people miss him or her.

That person was loved and left an impressive legacy. You hear that he or she was inspirational, charismatic, influential, trustworthy, brilliant, politically savvy, and so on. The list of compliments you hear is so long that you wonder how you are going to be half the leader your predecessor was.

Shifting from insecurity to appreciation

Honestly, if what I described above is the problem you are currently facing, you are lucky! This is a quality problem! Many of your peers working for other institutions would rather be in your shoes than dealing with their situations. Obviously, if you are hyper focused on your insecurities you won’t feel good but if you start to focus on other people, you can feel gratitude and enthusiasm.  

You are surrounded by people who know how to be appreciative and loyal. That is a wonderful thing! In time, you will receive appreciation and build loyalty too! Your new coworkers aren’t particularly combative, hostile, or difficult. That means you’ll be able to do important work instead of wasting time and energy on petty issues. Be happy about that! Your new “home” is full of opportunities.

Remember what you bring to the table

You may have heard that comparison is the thief of joy. Comparing yourself to your predecessor (who appears flawless) will inevitably hurt your confidence and your ability to lead. So please, drop all comparisons. The other person is gone. You are here now. And you are here because the hiring committee believed you were the best candidate for this job. They believed it and it’s time for you to believe it too. You are more than good enough. You got this!

Stop thinking about what you are not and start giving yourself credit for what you are. If giving yourself appreciation (and even praise) feels uncomfortable, it means it’s time for you to learn to acknowledge your valuable contributions to the workplace. I strongly encourage you to write a very long list of your personal qualities, professional qualities, values, talents, experience, expertise, strengths, and accomplishments. It’s not time to be modest; it’s time to build yourself up so that you can lead with confidence.

The future is yours to create

Now that you have reclaimed your personal power and “de-activated” your insecurities, it’s time to put more trust in yourself and your future. You are in the driver seat, not the passenger seat. Instead of waiting to see how things will unfold, it’s your responsibility to set some goals and keep yourself accountable to follow-through.

Remember not to focus on your fears or look for validation or self-worth. You have accepted a position of servant leadership and your job is to think of yourself less often and put your time and energy into being of service. This isn’t about you, it’s about the people you are here to serve.

Think about how you are going to invest some time learning about people and situations before making new decisions. Listen to what people need. No matter how extraordinary your predecessor was, some opportunities were probably missed, and you will be able to make improvements or enable innovations that were not possible before. You are starting a new chapter and will create a new legacy.

Be intentional. Create a compelling vision of success. Hold yourself accountable. Build quality relationships on campus. Do your job to the best of your ability and soon people will stop speaking about your predecessor because they will be too busy doing important work with you and loving it.

If it’s difficult for you to silence your insecurities and focus on service rather than fear or self-doubt, I invite you to speak with me about how I can help you. I can walk you through a personal transformation that will not only make you a stronger leader but also a more confident and happier person. Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation. Life is too precious to let negative thoughts stop you from being your best self. Let’s talk soon!

You may also like this article: “Must Read if You Recently Accepted a New Position in Higher Ed Admin”

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.

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