Leadership New Principals

Trust and the Principal.

Everyone who begins a new tenure at a school as the Principal hears the same advice: (including from Principal Matters!)  don’t start making changes right away, and maybe not any big changes in your first year at all.

You’ve heard that.  It most usually holds true.  The ‘why’ of it, however, isn’t always discussed.

It’s pretty simple.  People reserve their full effort until they trust you as the leader. 

An initiative you lead after you’ve gained the trust of your team has very different outcomes than one you initiate before they’re ready to join you.  Of course, there are always leaders who fail to heed this advice and plunge in anyway.  Some of them aren’t given a choice by their supervisors and are called upon to do immediate changes.

If you begin to make too many changes before you’ve earned trust, now you run the risk that not only do they not trust you, but they are not sure they can trust your judgment.  (Others often view the leader’s judgment along with the results; if you push something before you gain trust and it flops, then your judgment falls into question and you’re further set back in your journey to gain their trust.)

OK, here’s how it plays out in practice.  Sometimes it is really necessary to change some things sooner than you’d like.  If your teachers are yelling or disrespecting students, that’s nothing you can wait on.  If you have staff who leave their classes unattended, don’t come to work on time (or at all!) you can’t wait on that either.  If there are practices that a reasonable person would consider to be unsafe, you have to get going on those as well.

Success falls upon the prudent more than the overly-cautious or the impulsive.  Do what must be done, and then gain the necessary trust to do what should be done.

Your staff probably can be divided up into those who are quick to trust, those who may never fully trust, and the overwhelmingly largest group (68%… you know the bell curve) who are waiting to see which of the first two groups are correct!  For those, trust is a function of time, a matter of developing relationships, and observably consistent behavior on your part (i.e.- what you do and what you say match up)

Trust will come (if you are trust-worthy) over time, and then moving the organization forward becomes a much different (and more effective) task.

Funny thing about earning trust… takes much longer to earn than to lose.  Being a person who can be trusted, a leader who seeks the best for her people, a team member who sets aside his personal agenda for the better of the school.. that’s how you can keep trust once you’ve gained it.


On Monday Night (from 8:00-9:00 PM EDT) you can access the first episode of season two of “The New Principal Show.”  Our topic:  Trust and the Principal.

You can join the LIVE show here:  The New Principal Show! LIVE .   If you miss it, you can catch the recording as a podcast here:  Podcast: TNPS! .

© 2018.  Dr. Mark D. Wilson.  All Rights Reserved.

Season Two

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