Coaching & Leadership Development
#WomenEd – Why it’s So Much More than a Movement

#WomenEd – Why it’s So Much More than a Movement

This week’s blog comes from Maria Alex O’Neill (@DaringOptimist), co-founder of HealthyToolkit HQ, teacher, coach, passionate Womened advocate and organiser of the upcoming WomenEd West Midlands regional event.   #WomenEd, what is it?   According to the website, ‘‘#WomenEd is a grassroots movement which connects existing and aspiring leaders in education.’’   For me, undoubtedly, it has been much more than just a movement. It has been an everlasting source of inspiration, encouragement, friendship and unconditional support. Teaching is one of the most challenging professions with significant and at times overwhelming responsibilities and pressures placed on its members.   Your teaching life can get so busy that you might lose sight of the bigger picture and unintentionally acquire a self-awareness glitch that lets you go with the flow without paying much attention to your needs or wellbeing.   You lose yourself in your current circumstances and your personal and professional journeys start to be shaped by self-doubt and fear of failure underpinned by subjective opinions brutally expressed by others. An objective perspective ceases to exist and you end up somewhere in a twilight zone relentlessly trying to figure out what is the purpose of it all?   Then there is #WomenEd, your antidote to chaos and confusion, an amazing, caring and inspirational tribe of colleagues who guide you, support you on your journey of professional and personal rediscovery, who help you regain your confidence and start believing in your dreams again.   You become empowered to be your authentic self again and the feeling of belonging, one of the natural human needs, gives you strength to carry on and shape your...
3 Reasons Why our Schools Need Authentic Leaders

3 Reasons Why our Schools Need Authentic Leaders

  It truly saddens me to say this, but it is my belief that one of the unfortunate legacies of recent educational reform has been the fuelling of egocentric approaches to school improvement.   Government policy has enabled investment that has assisted the creation of personal power bases, rather than an education system in which all truly flourish.   For those heads and school leaders who have sought to maintain an altruistic approach to their roles, the constant question many have struggled with is; “How, within the current realities of the education system, can I maintain my original ideals and lead with true authenticity?”   The school leaders who ask this question are the brave and courageous ones. They are the ones who are prepared to do the ‘inner work’ of school leadership and ask the deep questions that will ensure that they remain rooted in their values and what they know to be true. They are the authentic leaders.   And, make no mistake, like never before, we need these authentic leaders. We need them at the helm of our schools for 3 key reasons:   1. Every child has the right to flourish   For this to be true our school leaders need to flourish. School leaders cannot and do not flourish when they are leading from a place that is a lesser version of their true/best self. It simply isn’t possible.   Within us all there is a desire to reach forward, to grow. However, when this is thwarted, whether through fear, the misuse of power, etc., individuals adopt behaviours that keep them and their aspirations...
Leading with Authenticity – The Cost of Not Being Yourself

Leading with Authenticity – The Cost of Not Being Yourself

  Many of us have, no doubt, experienced times or even situations when we have felt the need to act differently from what feels to be our true self.      Sometimes this is because we believe that in order to succeed or gain approval, we have to alter our behaviour and show others a changed version of ourselves; one that we perceive others want us to be – a “false self” that we think will meet their expectations.   In some situations, the “false self” acts as a very clever defence mechanism. It has the cunning ability to make us feel safe in potentially threatening situations. If we are on our guard and present this “false self” to the  world, then we have no fear of rejection or criticism. As our true, authentic, vulnerable self is protected from the judgement and critique of others.   Being authentic is something increasingly talked about in the context of leadership, but can be very difficult for School Leaders. Particularly given the prevalent damaging expectation on School leaders to be “Superheads”, strong rocks of their respective schools, impervious to criticism, unmoved by crises and able to turn around a school without feeling anything in the process.   As such, it is not unusual for many Heads to feel that they need to hide their vulnerability, in order to try and live up to this expectation and maintain order and command respect from staff and pupils alike.   However, what is often overlooked, is that by not being ourselves, there is a heavy price to pay, in terms of our well-being, our relationships...
Are Your Needs as a School Leader Being Met?

Are Your Needs as a School Leader Being Met?

  When you are in the service of others it is all too easy to put the needs of others before yourself. As a school leader, you’re expected to model compassion, empathy and concern for others on a daily basis. You deliver high degrees of challenge and achieve results based on the trust that you inspire.   However, you know whether you are new in post, or well established and long serving, too often the type of support that you receive is concerned solely with meeting the strategic and operational needs of your role. Your emotional needs are often neglected and this is where support fails. The omission of such support encourages you to sacrifice the meeting of your own needs to meet the needs of those you serve.   This level of giving without moments built into your leadership life to replenish, often lead to illness and for some burn out. To prevent this damaging phenomenon, school leaders need to be supported to engage with their role in a new way; a way that supports the prioritisation of self-awareness, self- management and self-compassion.   Supporting new ways to engage with you role   We all have basic human emotional needs [ see the Table below] although the degree to which we require these needs to be met varies greatly. Our individual identities are dependent on our parenting and life experiences, and how both have shaped our sense of self. One person may need autonomy to feel in control, another may need approval and support from other people.   It can help to reflect on the degree to which you...
An Open Letter to Theresa May on Headteachers

An Open Letter to Theresa May on Headteachers

Dear Theresa May,   I am writing to you with a plea at a time when your mind may well be on other matters but my plea is quite simple; please begin to listen to those in education who are on the front line.   Our head teachers and school leaders who every day give their all as they seek to create better futures for our children.   I write this letter to you as a former head teacher, who has been in the profession for over twenty five years. Although I left headship over thirteen years ago, I am now in schools nearly every day, providing coaching support for passionate school leaders. When I am with my school leaders I hear the truth about what it takes to be a successful school leader.   To be a successful school leader today takes: – Courage – Bravery – Resilience   Within the current increasingly competitive and antagonistic narrative surrounding school improvement, school leaders are finding that these qualities are becoming harder to develop. As a key by product of your pre-decessors’ reforms have been heightened feelings of professional and emotional isolation. In such an environment school leaders struggle to form trusting relationships and feelings of connectedness and shared self worth diminish.   Yet the concerns of many hardworking Headteachers and the need for greater support for Heads appears to continue to fall on deaf ears and with this has come heightened feelings of professional and emotional isolation.   I ask you to listen to head teachers and school leaders, because if you did you would truly understand what it takes for our school leaders to ‘dare...