Priorities for New Leaders to Consider
New leaders, like the University of Michigan men’s basketball head coach Juwan Howard, are under tremendous pressure right out of the gate. There are a few things they can do to set a foundation in place for future sustainability:
1. Respect that which came before
Bo Schembechler taught his staff that you must respect those who held the position before you. There’s a team in place that’s been doing the best they can — honor that effort, and understand the components of the identity you have inherited.
This identity includes:
a. Their vision – Where did those before you want to take the program? What better future were they trying to create? How can you and your team enhance that vision to make it more compelling and more powerful?
b. Their purpose – What were they trying to accomplish on a daily basis? What motivated them deeply to do their work and make the sacrifices required for success? Can you and your team enhance that purpose and make it your purpose?
c. Their guiding principles – What were the principles that guided them in daily decision making as they served their purpose and moved toward their vision? The vision and purpose are much more easily adjustable than guiding principles. The guiding principles are how they have worked together as a team at their best; they are already in place — clarify them as a team and find ways to make them even more apparent.
2. Which competencies exist, and which are missing?
Being strategic and thinking long-term, what are the assets — people, facilities, equipment, and branding — that are necessary for sustainable success? What is the inventory of assets you possess? What are the assets that are needed for sustainable success? Put a game plan in place to get them.
3. Be humble
Juwan Howard may have endeared himself to his University of Michigan family indelibly by his reaction when introduced by athletic director Warde Manuel. His humble and emotional response to receiving the honor of being named the head coach of the University of Michigan men’s basketball team showed his openness and vulnerability. It may seem counterintuitive, but vulnerability is at the foundation of leaders building trust in those they are asking to follow them.
New leaders don’t know what they don’t know, and for those who are in the public eye, the media will set you up for failure if you pretend to know more than you do. Be humble, be vulnerable, and ask for help. The help you receive will surpass any knowledge you have gained to date and will be a vital ingredient for your future success as a leader.