Donald Trump entered the White House with a similar situation. The economy was in good shape, the country was at peace with limited military involvement against ISIS, there was generalized national health care for the first time in history, and concrete action being taken on climate change. In short, there was a strong foundation upon which to build. And, although the new President might want to take things in a different direction, there was no imminent crisis or need to act quickly. That is not to say that things were perfect - but he had four years ahead of him to steer the country in a different direction. In fact, it was a perfect time to sit back, reflect and begin a process of systematic change and growth.
However, Trump came in with a self-defining mantra. He had told voters that things were a "mess" and only he could fix them; he described different government policies as "terrible" and military strategy as "pathetic" and he had promised sweeping changes from "Day 1". At the same time, he nursed a highly suspicious, almost paranoid, view of the honesty and professionalism of anyone who had been appointed by the previous administration. So his "job 1" was to both conduct a purge, and to surround himself with his own team who were loyal only to him.
It has been observed, that in business, the President had consistently not promoted the most experienced candidates, or the best and the brightest, but rather had always chosen people with flash. He preferred style over substance - a predilection that had led him to bankruptcy and business ruin on many occasions. A quick look at his inner circle shows a similar pattern in the White House, and what should be a sounding board for testing and challenging ideas, has become an echo chamber where whatever Trump says is repeated and amplified.
Over the years, I have seen new Heads make exactly the same mistake. Rather than coming in, getting the lay of the land, and taking advantage of the experienced team in place, they demonstrate an almost manic need to change as much as possible, as soon as they can. Like Trump, they feel that their hiring gives them a "mandate" for change and that the Board and school community will want to see them take action as quickly as possible. Usually this is a recipe for disaster! In the next post, we will look at how the first hundred days can be the making or breaking of a headship.