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4 Steps to Thriving at Your New Leadership Position in Higher Ed.

Congratulations on your new position!

You’re moving up the organizational chart, gaining new responsibilities, new people to work with, and maybe even a new campus if you accepted a position at a different institution. So much is new! You are excited about a fresh start and all of the possibilities that this new job represents. One thing remains though, you are still the same person you were yesterday.

Unless you choose to work on yourself, you will be taking with you any fears, insecurities, doubts, blind spots, and emotional triggers that might have hurt you in the past. Sometimes, people wonder why they keep experiencing the same patterns when they move from one job to another. That’s because even if their environment changes, their lives won’t change until they themselves change.

Step 1: Self-reflection and self-awareness

I am a strong advocate for leaving the past in the past, but only after we’ve learned our lessons. Otherwise, the past will keep repeating itself. So, ask yourself these questions:

What do I fear?

What makes me feel insecure or inadequate?

What could I do better?

What challenges will I have to face at my new job?

What problems have I had in the past with supervisors, direct reports, and other colleagues?

What aspects of my new job are uncomfortable?

What do I wish I could avoid?What makes me procrastinate?

What do I worry about?

Step 2: Questioning assumptions

If the questions above sent you spiraling down into self-criticism and self-doubt or even self-loathing, then the most important thing you need to address is your excessive self-criticism and self-doubt. If on the other end of the spectrum you couldn’t identify anything to improve, you are probably too afraid to look at reality, and you find comfort in denial and avoidance. In that case, overcoming patterns of denial and avoidance are your greatest opportunity for growth.

For everything in between these two extremes, please look at your answers one by one and ask yourself “Is this really true?”. Take time to question your assumptions before you turn them into personal and professional development goals. If your list is too long, it will be overwhelming and discouraging. It’s important to prioritize and keep the list relatively short. If that’s too challenging, don’t hesitate to reach out and I’ll be happy to facilitate the process.

Step 3. Stop projecting your fears on others

Examining your beliefs is extremely powerful because the mind is designed to notice things that validate our existing beliefs and dismiss what contradicts them. In other words, whatever you look for, you will find. For example, if you expect people to be hostile and question whether you deserve your new position, you will hear the critics loud and clear but you won’t notice the helpful, supportive, and collaborative people who try to make you feel welcome.

When we judge ourselves, we expect others to judge us the same way. If you are insecure about something, you’ll expect everyone to be looking at “that thing”. But nobody cares. Everyone is busy worrying about their own insecurities. It’s unlikely that you are being judged the way you think. At least, not in the beginning, but over time, if you keep telling people what’s “wrong with you” they will eventually agree with you. So make sure you don’t carry old fears and insecurities as baggage into your next job, or your fears may become reality.

Step 4: Get ready for new challenges

There is something else to keep in mind. Please realize that you might have been successful in some areas because there were no significant difficulties. For example, people who suddenly find themselves having to deal with unsupportive colleagues might say “This isn’t my fault. It has never happened to me. I don’t deserve this.” The question isn’t whether they have a reason to blame themselves for causing it or deserving it (blame never adds value to anything so it’s never the point). The question is, will they let themselves be victimized, or will they learn how to do something about it and turn the situation around?

I believe leaders need to have boundaries and know when it’s time to leave a job filled with unhealthy dynamics, but being happy and comfortable most of the time is also not a good thing. Having problems to solve and intimidating goals to reach is necessary to grow and keep becoming a better leader. So be ready to have to deal with problems you’ve never faced before. That’s part of the job, and if you choose trust over fear, you will enjoy seeing yourself stretch and rise to the occasion.

I hope this article inspired you to be proactive and choose to grow before life hands you challenges that knock you off balance. There is tremendous joy in succeeding at things that used to be intimidating. You will experience excitement and fulfillment from growing as a leader. So, do it! Better yet, let’s do it together. I invite you to click here to schedule a call with me and discuss how we can take this journey together. There is no better use of your professional development dollars.


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, visit

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