How to Lead in a New Location by: Phil Alsup

How to Lead in a New Location

As we look to begin a new semester at universities and colleges around the nation many people are preparing to move to a new place where they may have never lived or even know any one. I myself can remember moving to a different state for school and arriving on a campus where I didn’t know a soul. It can be an odd feeling of displacement especially if you have spent years contributing leadership to organizations in which you have been involved. In those likely people knew you well, understood your gifts, and it was natural to find ways to contribute. It is easy to feel a loss of purpose in a suddenly new environment and the hard reboot of old rhythms is something I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with. It can be very hard on one’s identity and self-perception to all of the sudden go from a big fish in small pond to just a guppy in the vast ocean. It invites self-comparison and self-doubt into an environment that already is full of transition. These types of displacement can become overwhelming and contribute to a season of losing oneself into an entire season of bad decisions. Here are three ways to begin to reset yourself as a leader in a totally new environment.


It is easy to feel a loss of purpose in a suddenly new environment and the hard reboot of old rhythms is something a lot of people struggle with.

1) Use the time to learn a good followership mentality:

As counter-intuitive as it sounds the best way to learn how to lead is to learn how to be an effective follower. This doesn’t mean becoming a total sheep in the herd but instead means understanding how you learn from and support those in leadership. Jumping right into leadership roles can often pigeon-hole you into a limited set of skills. Playing a variety of smaller supporting roles, however, allows you to grow your skill set. Rather than leaning immediately into skills you know you are good at instead try slowing down and seeking to contribute in new areas. You will be a better leader from having a broader understanding of how things work. As an added bonus you may even find some new strengths and skills you didn’t know you had.

2) Look for values that resonate with you:

One eventually gets leadership credibility from being part of an organization for a long time. One also stays emotionally invested in an organization when one feels an alignment with (as opposed to an obligation to) the organization’s values. It’s easy when you’ve just moved to a new area to join in the first organizations you come into contact with or those perceived to have the most prestige. If you don’t believe in what the organization is dedicated toward however, over time you will deprioritize your commitment to them when your schedule inevitably gets crunched. Take the time to find the right values fit.

3) Find a mentor and learn:

Upperclassmen leaders can be a great resource. They know how the organizations work and usually already are looking for someone to pass their knowledge onto as they know their time is winding down. I learned a lot from several people a couple of years older who invested in me and helped set me up for success to contribute future leadership. Don’t miss this really valuable way to connect with some new relationships.

One’s time at university is fleeting in view of a lifetime and the transitory nature of college can pull one into a season where one just wants to “live for now.”

As followers of Christ we obviously want to seek out organizations that are investing and making a difference in things eternal. One’s time at university is fleeting in view of a lifetime and the transitory nature of college can pull one into a season where one just wants to “live for now.” I challenge you, as a leader and follower of Christ, to think beyond that. It’s true you may not be at that school in three to four years but that doesn’t mean you can’t strengthen an important organization while there and eventually equip others to take it over when you move on. Others can continue to make differences in eternity long after your involvement so seek to honor God and steward your limited amount of time there well. The skills and knowledge you pick up in the meantime can benefit you for a lifetime.

Go Deeper:

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