Coaching & Leadership Development
The 3 Secrets of Sustainable School Leadership

The 3 Secrets of Sustainable School Leadership

This Blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.   Before going any further, I must confess to you that I do not write from the authority of having sustained a long period in headship.  On the contrary, after four years I gave it up in the knowledge that to carry on would not be compatible with my own good health; nor therefore, of course, that of the school.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I was perfectly healthy and very fit, physically.  I had made sure of that.   Emotionally, though, I was becoming drained.  My resilience was lower than was safe.  So, what I have to say is (I hope) wisdom gained partly through my own suffering and healing, partly through observation of some dozens of school leaders with whom I have had the privilege of working.   Secret 1: The Energy Bonfire   It follows, then, that the first ‘secret’ of sustainable school leadership is that, however easy some may make it look, it’s not!  It’s hard.  The ability to sustain effective, inspiring leadership is an art learned and honed by experience, hard graft, incredible dedication and deep reflection.  Most school leaders I know, at least some of the time, feel their whole life has been taken over by the role.   Like a bonfire, this all burns a great deal of energy.  It can be exhausting and, sadly, superheroes with unlimited energy don’t exist!   What can I do?   Keep re-fuelling the energy bonfire!  A wise counsellor once said to me, ‘As long as there is as much coming...
Why Leaders need to Invest time in Themselves

Why Leaders need to Invest time in Themselves

  Time is something that we all value. Yet in the life of a school leader, as precious as it is, you seem to have very little of it. Or to put it another way, you appear to have a lot of time to give to other people, but very little to be able to give back to yourself!   With the holiday break just around the corner, I want to encourage you to take some time out for yourself and to use that time to think deeply on the qualities that you wish to further develop in yourself as a leader.   If challenges have come your way this term, as they undoubtedly will have done, take some time to be courageous and to face whatever fears and worries may have arisen. Author Simon Walker argues that when leaders do so, they become ‘undefended’.   They are able to let down their defence mechanisms and arrive at a place of deep strength and personal understanding. He argues that undefended leaders are individuals who have learnt what it takes to face their own fears, doubts and uncertainties. They are individuals who have learnt the truth that:    Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. Nelson Mandela Triumph over fear, requires support, personal validation and time to help foster a common understanding of the human vulnerabilities that we all share.   He argues that individuals who give themselves time to develop a deeper understanding of their life and leadership circumstances, learn to embrace the challenge of leadership alongside the pursuit of the humanitarian goals of the...
How to Overcome the Impact of… a Poor set of Exam Results

How to Overcome the Impact of… a Poor set of Exam Results

  I know many a Head who has been there and I have been there myself. The night before test results are due, unable to sleep a wink, tossing and turning, your mind endlessly sifting through different scenarios as to what might happen and how you’ll respond if the results aren’t what’s expected.   I remember once being at a recruitment and retention conference attended by the ‘great and the good’ in education and politics. When one Secondary Head spoke about how he had cried in the school car park on GCSE results day, there was an audible sense of “I’ve been there too” from the educationalists that were in the room.   However, from the politicians present their lack of empathy and understanding was clear for all to see. Many of whom had presided over the policies and system changes that have created the toxic culture of fear and anxiety that are hallmarks of our current testing regime. It would not have been in their interest to admit to the corrosive effect that these changes have had upon the mental health and well-being of our teachers and school leaders.   But … if you are a teacher or a school leader, it is in your interest to face up to the impact that the pressurised testing regime has upon the collective mental and health and well-being of the profession. The continuing pressure to succeed, has created false gods out of Key stage tests, GCSE’s, ‘A’ Levels and government league tables.   However, salvation is often short lived, dependent as it is, on the inevitable variations between one cohort...