​Dena R. Cushenberry 
Superintendent, Warren Township in Marion County, Indiana 
The Center for Appreciative 
Organizing in Education ​
There’s something special about a principal assigned to the same school where he was both a student and teacher. To say the least, Warren was excited to hear about Paul’s appointment, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with him and to help him to better a place he knew so deeply and so personally. 

I had just seen him two weeks prior with his supervisor. We all sat down to review his student data and, more importantly, his plans for the coming year. But this time, I was going to see him alone. I wanted to see how he was relating to his staff, how he was establishing himself. His predecessor had been very close with the staff, and Paul had big shoes to fill—so was he filling them? 

Paul was an excellent teacher and a terrific coach for his staff—there was no doubt about that. But I had heard that he had been changing staff members’ schedules. He was also handling more of his correspondences and writing more of his own reports than he needed to. These were tasks for the school secretary.
When we sat down to talk, I asked him to consider the impact of taking work away from the secretary without giving her other work to do in its place. He said that it was his preference to do the work himself.
“Have you considered how the secretary sees it?” I asked him.
“No,” he said slowly. “I suppose I hadn’t.”
I reminded him that her identity, her sense of self-worth at Warren, had grown out of how much the former principal had relied on her. It went deeper than having something to do—she needed to feel relied upon as a member of the administrative team, and her relationship with Paul as the highest administrator at the school was critical. 

I suggested he have a conversation with her to discuss what she liked most about her job. I told him to ask her how she saw herself helping to make the school successful under the new administration. All of this, we agreed, would make her feel, not only involved, but empowered and valued.
There was also, however, the problem of the media specialist, who was concerned because Paul had changed her schedule. He wanted all staff members in the classrooms to support struggling readers during the elementary reading block, and this had meant taking staff away from the support roles they often played in her Media Center activities. Again, I asked Paul to have a conversation with her, to explain his reasons for instituting the change. More importantly, though, I told him he needed to ask her how the change had affected her and her ability to fulfill her responsibilities.
All of this clearly made Paul a little nervous. He had been concerned from the beginning, he said, that he had been overusing the district media staff when, in fact, all he had been doing was looking for support during the first month of the year. I re-assured him that it would have been more concerning if he had not reached out for support.  
“We’re there,” I said, “to make our schools great for staff, students, and administrators. You can’t be the best right out of the gate, and you don’t rise to the top by going it alone.”
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