When I became a Head, the weight of responsibility often weighed heavy on my shoulders. More often than not, this was due to the fact that any responsibility towards the meeting of my own needs, I unconsciously placed second.
Not realising that doing so only added to the pressures that I felt. It was only after many a dark night of the soul and more than a few tears, that I came to realise that true, authentic success was very much going to be dependent on the degree to which I took responsibility for how I engaged with the pressures of the role and the commitments/promises that I was prepared to make to myself.
Every school leader that I have had the privilege to work with has travelled a similar path. As I have journeyed with them, I have come to see that much like myself, in my early days of Headship, their path towards success has deepened when they have learned to accept three key responsibilities about the role.
Many of these responsibilities were in fact commitments; promises that they made to themselves to help ensure that they stayed true to their own leadership path and were not unduly swayed by the inevitable challenges that so often arise.
Here’s what these 3 key commitments were…
1. Commitment to their own Self-Care
This first commitment should come as no surprise, to those who are familiar with many a blog that I have written. We cannot ignore our own emotional, mental and vocational needs. These are the wells from which our passion springs. If they are allowed to run dry then we have very little, if anything to give. Those around us will not feel nourished by our presence or inspired by our words.
A commitment to our own self-care ensures that we take the meeting of our own needs seriously and do not see it as a selfish act, but rather good stewardship of the gifts that we have been given, so that we can be of greater service to others.
2. Commitment to living their values
In his book, “The Courage to Teach”, Parker Palmer says:
“Movements that transform us, our relations, and our world emerge from the lives of people who decide to care for their authentic self-hood.”
I believe that in this, he is saying teachers, leaders those who are in a position to make a real difference, transform and become agents for real change, when they connect deeply with their values and become the living embodiment of them. This is no easy task, but it is a necessary one.
It is a necessary one because when school leaders commit to living by their values, they also commit to role modelling for others what true ethical behaviour looks like. They also commit to facing any opposition that some may have towards their values and developing the courage and faith to stand up for them…no matter what.
3. Commitment to asking the bigger questions
When Heads have reached certain point in their careers, many, if they are supported correctly, begin to ask questions that have less to do with ‘doing’ in the role and more to do with ‘being’ There is a deep desire to take a more measured approach to the demands of the role.
This desire is often accompanied by the realisation that this measured approach can be assisted, if they commit to asking what I term the bigger questions. The bigger questions are those that are concerned with how leaders influence the quality of their leadership through the relationship that they have with themselves.
At times, these bigger questions, can often be very troubling, because they;
1. Are unfamiliar (OFSTED, Governors, your School Improvement Advisor will not be asking you these types of questions!)
2. Cause leaders to think at a deeper level
3. May invite an exploration of the shadow or hidden aspects of a person’s leadership style.
Yet, when answers are honestly searched for and eventually found, they pave the way towards individuals becoming larger/more expansive and authentic versions of themselves. Hence, why they are called ‘The bigger questions.’
Exploring the Bigger Questions
We believe that one of the most essential aspects of sustainable leadership is having regular opportunities to reflect on one’s leadership, re-energise, re-connect with what drives them, and above all, focus on how they are going about to achieve their vision.
That’s why we offer our “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…