When I first became a Head, I looked at all the other Heads around me and firmly believed that no matter the circumstance, no matter the cost you had to soldier on no matter what.
I wasn’t aware that there was another option and that was, to ask for help. Well, that’s not right. My belief was rightly or wrongly that if I asked for help, it would either be a sign of weakness or it would be used against me.
Likewise, there are many reasons why school leaders don’t ask for help but most are rooted in the:
– Fear of being judged or what other people will say.
– Fear of being seen as weak or as a failure.
– Fear of not knowing the answers to problems that have arisen.
– Fear that the help that is asked for might not match one’s needs.
I see many school leaders express such fears and in today’s high stakes/high risks educational landscape it is understandable.
However, by giving into this fear – there is certainly a cost to pay for both our leaders and our schools. As without help, the experience for our school leaders can be both lonely and limiting.
Progress is often slow and in extreme cases stunted; neither the individual nor those they lead are able to reach the level of maturity necessary for sustained personal effectiveness.
What’s more, by not seeking help – our leaders fail to properly model one of the most important traits of a school leader and one of the most valuable things that any child can learn at school – humanity.
After all, whether you are a Head teacher, teacher, or in another role, you are first and foremost, human.
Being human involves feeling and learning to live with uncertainty, fear and self-doubt, being vulnerable to change and uncertainty. It means we have limits about what we can do without help. We are social beings who need to support one another, if we are to lead fulfilling lives and achieve our goals.
And our pupils need leaders who embrace this humanity and model what it can look like, rather than seek to hide it.
They need leaders who have the emotional maturity to be vulnerable but also demonstrate that within all of us there is also the capacity to overcome our fears, doubts and uncertainties. Above all, our schools need leaders who have the strength, courage and bravery to embrace their humanity.
School leaders, with the ability to lead with a deep and grounded connection to themselves would show future school leaders, that the role can be done, but in a more holistic and humane way. They would model what it truly means to bring to life the values of honesty, trust and respect and give meaning to these values in our schools.
Imagine if all our school leaders did this! What role models they would be for all of those around them. What a difference it would make to the emotional climate in our schools. What difference it would make to keeping vision, hope and passion alive and bringing us all that much nearer to the vision of a truly humanitarian and caring school system.
Are you ready to ask for help?
One of the hardest things for me as a Headteacher was finding the courage to ask for the help that I needed. What I needed back then was someone impartial who really understood the challenges I was experiencing, with whom I could “drop the leadership mask” and talk openly and honestly about the issues, questions, doubts and feelings I was having in my role.
If our leaders are to sustain consistently high levels of effectiveness and develop as leaders amidst the growing emotional cost of leading, the complexity of the role and heightened pressure of being a school leader, this form of support is not just helpful – it’s vital.
Social workers have supervision to help them process their toughest cases, and corporate executives have space for “lessons learned” and continuous improvement between projects.
Yet school leaders remain endemically under-supported and so as a result, not only are the development needs of our leaders often neglected – many are also left without anyone to turn to when they are in need of support, clarity, guidance, or even just some encouragement to keep going.
That’s why I am now offering free “Coaching for The Soul” support calls for school leaders to ensure that no School Leader finds themselves in the same situation as I was as a School Leader.
This Free 30 minute call will provide you with a confidential, safe space where you can:
– Talk through the challenges you’re currently facing in your role
– Get support in locating next steps and solutions to help you overcome the issues you’re experiencing
– Explore what you want out of life as a School Leader
Places are limited – so if you are determined to take charge of your own well-being, book today to avoid disappointment.