There is no better place to start then how he got the job in the first place...
1. Getting the Job
In spite of the fact that research supports the observation of Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, that most great companies are led by internal candidates, a majority of Boards (and Heads) believe that bringing in external candidates will "shake up" the school or bring in fresh ideas that will spark improvement. This is sometimes the case, but in most instances the myth of the "outsider" turns out to be just that, a myth. Donald Trump's "drain the swamp" mantra is a prime example of a candidate framing themselves as the person who can bring positive change to an institution without being sullied by actually having any experience working in it. Hilary Clinton, by contrast, was seen as the ultimate "insider" which was just a way to frame decades of experience and hard work as a "weakness".
In schools, headhunters usually propagate the same theory (after all, who needs help in promoting an internal candidate?!) The fresh face, can dazzle an interview team with great new ideas and approaches and, arriving on the doorstep with only glowing references and no history, hiring committees can often be seduced by style over substance. Internal candidates, by contrast, in spite of solid accomplishments and an intimate knowledge of the institution, are often crippled by the fact that they are known "warts and all" and carry the baggage of past slights or mis-steps. Internal candidates are far more often eliminated by gossip than by substance.
The external candidate (or outsider) rides the change wave by making sweeping promises for "making the school great again" without being hampered by an understanding of the resources, personnel, culture, and barriers to growth that have to be managed and overcome before the school can move forward. In the recent Presidential campaign we heard "I will defeat ISIS in the first 30 days", "We will repeal and replace Obamacare on Day 1", or "We will build a wall, and Mexico will pay for it!". Once in place however, the external candidate quickly learns that while grandiose promises might get you the job, failure to deliver can help you to lose it in record time.
As a disclaimer, I have more often come into a leadership role as an outsider than as an internal candidate, and have learned by hard, (and humbling) experience what approaches work, and which ones are doomed to failure!
So, once the "white knight" has been given the mandate to come in and make changes, what should she or he do first?
We'll talk about that in the next post.