Coaching & Leadership Development
October 3, 2018

The 3 Disciplines of Great School Leaders

The 3 Disciplines of Great School Leaders


Our schools will always need great leaders. Individuals who possess deep levels of courage, tenacity and integrity and are willing to take on the often very heavy mantle of school leadership.


With a continuing decline in the number of teachers putting themselves forward for leadership roles, we need to take a long hard look at what can be done to maintain the commitment of those who have taken a step up the ladder.


Strategies need to be considered that address the person within the role and “evoke the inner life of activities that cultivate their capacity to lead with greater consciousness, self-awareness and integrity” (Parker J Palmer)


When such strategies are in place, an individuals’ capacity for being ‘great’ is increased are they are able to maintain an upward trajectory towards self-actualisation. This trajectory is maintained through the development of three key disciplines that are integral to the way in which they lead themselves and others.


Discipline 1: They ask questions of themselves


Great school leaders know that it is not enough to ask questions of others in their endeavour to create good and outstanding schools. They know that they must also ask questions of themselves. The questions that they know others would not dare to ask of them, but nevertheless they know that they must dare to ask of themselves.


They know they must ask questions about their hidden fears, their limitations, their biases and their emotional responses to the challenges of the role. They face up to asking these questions because they know that in doing so, they will find answers that will strengthen their leadership and their capacity for growing in the role.


Discipline 2: They take risks


Great school leaders are not afraid of failure. They are not afraid of stepping out into the unknown. They are not fool hardy in their decision making, neither are they unconsciously influenced by the unmet needs of their ego. Instead, they are guided by their strong moral purpose.


The risks that they take are guided by what they believe to be right or wrong and they understand that paradoxically, the right thing to do, is not always the easiest thing to do. As a result, the risks that they take enable them to grow in both character and wisdom. They are leaders that others look up to and trust, because they demonstrate that great leadership is not a popularity contest, but a self-less quest carried out in the service of others.



Discipline 3: They keep connected to their personal vision


Great school leaders know that without a strong and secure sense of who they are and how they wish to be seen, the impact of their leadership can be seriously undermined. They know that amidst the myriad of opinions and voices offering advice and telling them what to do, they need to know when to turn down the volume and listen to their own voice.


They know that the ability to do so, keeps them connected to their personal vision, it keeps them connected to their ‘Why’ and in so doing ensures that any decisions they do make are aligned to who they are and how they wish to be seen.




In the frenetic life of a school leader time and space are increasingly rare commodities. With a constant flow of meetings to be held, problems to solve and fires to put out – it can be very hard for leaders to find the time and space to be still and think.


However, without this chance to stop and consider what’s working and what isn’t – many leaders find themselves repeatedly making the same mistakes or simply leading on “autopilot”.This lack of space also means many have very few avenues for exploring and talking through the emotional aspects of the role, the challenges it poses and the impact is having upon them, mentally, emotionally and physically.


In turn, this can (without doubt) increase the risk of emotional ‘burn out’. When this begins to happen, not only do we experience extreme levels of mental and emotional exhaustion that can be debilitating to our ability to lead others, our health and our overall well-being.  Having been a Head myself, I know all too well what this feels like but equally what must be done to prevent it!


That’s why we’re now are offering a “Developing Headspace” Programme, consisting of a 2 Day “Transforming Leadership” Residential in Suffolk, Group Nurture Meals, coaching calls and a half day “Review and a Reflect” session, all designed to support and enhance Headteachers’ capacity for authentic, inspiring and sustainable leadership.


The programme hopes to offer a space for reflection and active, informed listening, for Heads to renew perspective, think strategically, build lasting networks of support and refresh the vitality of their core purpose.

Spread across three school terms, the programme includes a range of activities designed to provide on-going care, support and encouragement for Heads across the school year.

Above all, it is our aim to ensure that the programme supports school leaders in 5 key areas…

Vision: Central to all aspects of the programme are processes and ways of working individually and collectively that keep individuals anchored to their vision.

Values: Heads are supported to identify ways of being that increase alignment with themselves and their key values.

Resilience: As Heads develop a deeper understanding of how they respond to the stresses of the role, individuals are supported to develop greater degrees of emotional, psychological and vocational resilience.

A Values Network: The programme design facilitates the development of new supportive and collaborative relationships with like-minded peers.

Confidence: As individuals experience a growth in self-awareness and appreciation of their core strengths, they also experience a growth in personal conviction and increased confidence in their own abilities.

If you’d like to find out more about the programme, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…


Learn more about the Programme

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