“Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realise your own potential”
This is one of my favourite leadership quotes as more often than not, when I use it when I am delivering training with Heads, I get somewhat of a quizzical look, when I ask, “What development needs will you need to have met in order to realise your own potential?”
If I ask them about the development needs of their staff, the responses are usually fast and furious. So accustomed are they to coming up with solutions and strategies for meeting other people’s development needs. But when it comes to the meeting of their own, they are often stumped. This shouldn’t be the case. Every Head teacher, whether new in post or well-established needs to understand that above and beyond courses that support the operational and strategic aspects of running a school, there are a myriad of other leadership development needs that must be met to facilitate a holistic approach to their own growth and development in the role.
Of the many types of leadership development needs that Heads, there are 3 that are absolutely fundamental…
1. Leadership development that increases Emotional Intelligence
If you are familiar with the work of Daniel Goleman, you will be familiar with his four components of Emotional Intelligence:
1. Self-awareness – This is the ability to read your own emotions. It is a competency that allows people to know their strengths, limitations and feel confident about their self-worth. Effective Head Teachers use self-awareness to gauge their own moods accurately and they intuitively know how they are affecting others.
2. Self-management – This is the ability to control your emotions and act with honesty and integrity in reliable and adaptable ways. Effective Head teachers don’t let their occasional bad moods seize the day. They use self-management to leave their bad moods outside the school gates or to explain their source to people in a reasonable manner, so they know their origin.
3. Social Awareness – This includes the key capabilities of empathy and organisational intuition. School leaders with a high level of social awareness do more than sense other people’s emotions, they show that they care. In addition, they understand the ‘politics’ of their schools and the wider context. Thus, Head teachers understand how their words and actions make others feel, and they are sensitive enough to change them when the impact is negative.
4. Relationship Management – This includes the abilities to communicate clearly and convincingly, disarm conflicts and build strong personal bonds. Effective Head teachers use these skills to spread their enthusiasm and solve disagreements, often with humour and kindness.
These are the four components that all successful Head teachers need if they are to survive and thrive. If you have been in Headship for a while and have attended various leadership training programmes, I am sure you will have completed some sort of emotional intelligence assessment or undertaken a workshop or two.
However, I am sure you will also testify that an assessment or workshop is only the beginning. My experience has taught me (and perhaps yours has too) that developing our levels of emotional intelligence is often a very personal and private process. We develop these competencies and strengthen our ability to use them, only when we engage in leadership development that enables us to understand how our thoughts, feelings and behaviours impact upon the vision that we have for ourselves and our relationships with others.
2. Leadership development that builds resilience
Resilience is something that every Head teacher needs, but many are poorly supported to develop the habits that will sustain them through the toughest of times. Below, are some key resilience building steps from an Integrity Coaching Associate, Mary Evans;
1. Have time each day just to “be” –the chance to experience silence and stillness, and to be in touch with nature in some way. Some people find Mindfulness practice or meditation useful.
2. Know what restores your energy battery and how to build up some spare capacity so you are not running on empty when the unforeseen demands hit!
3. Have a sense of internal purpose that gives your life meaning – this strong commitment to an external goal, which is in line with your own values, is certainly important for school leaders to remain resilient.
4. Be open to learning about yourself. This includes developing self-awareness, accepting who and how you are, having a sound belief in your own judgement and developing the ability to be objective and to step aside to reflect.
5. Work with others and ask for help, also delegate, but have sufficient independence to hang onto your sense of OK when you meet personal challenges.
In addition to these five things, seek to be both optimistic and pragmatic, moving on rather than dwelling on things, taking responsibility rather than blaming others and having a sense of humour. In summary it is important to check in regularly (probably daily) with your own energy level and how resilient you are feeling and what you can do to shift things in the right direction.
3. Leadership development that nurtures greater self-understanding
Head teachers that pursue this type of leadership development understand that change begins with themselves. They recognise that their own personal lens through which they observe and interpret the world, may have a whole range of flaws.
They recognise that our growth into adulthood, has meant that we have often had to make adaptations to fit in. They recognise that in order to fulfil their potential, they need to review what these adaptations may have been and whether they have promoted their growth or stunted it. Familiar adaptations show up in our relationships and in how we lead ourselves and others:
– An inability to say “No” can be an adaptation where growing up the individual ‘learnt’ that if they said “Yes” they were seen as being more pleasing or agreeable to others
– An over pre-occupation with detail can be an adaptation where growing up the individual ‘learnt’ that if they got things ‘right’ no harm would come to them or they were seen as being ‘good/worthy”
– Internalising of emotions can be an adaptation where growing up the individual ‘learnt’ that they were safe if they didn’t express their feelings or rock the boat.
And there are many more. The point is leadership development that seeks to raise a Head teacher’s self-awareness, can help to uncover blind-spots, that if left uncovered may seriously damage their leadership.
Such support involves;
“Not denying, distorting, exaggerating or ignoring private knowledge, internal experiences and externally based information”
(The Leadership Quarterly – 2005)
Quite simply, this form of leadership development that supports the Head teacher to have both a honest relationship with self and with others is crucial.
Every leader needs opportunities to step back and reflect on this and their own leadership, as when they do so they become more adept at learning lessons from experience, leading themselves in more supportive ways and refining the way they go about their roles.
What’s more by giving themselves a chance to stop, pause and reflect, they create invaluable opportunities where they can re-energise, re-focus on what they want to achieve, re-connect with what drives them and above all, plot how they are going about to achieve our vision. Particularly amidst the growing emotional cost of leading, the complexity of the role and heightened pressure of being a school leader – this is essential to sustaining high levels of leadership effectiveness and staying in Headship for the long-haul.
This past year has brought many unprecedented challenges for the teaching profession and Headteachers in particular, have had to engage with their role, their staff and their communities in ways that they could never have imagined prior to the events of last year.
For many school leaders there is now an emerging need to:
– Review their role and find a deeper meaning from what has unfolded
– Renew and revisit their sense of vocation and purpose within the context of the impact of the Pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Movement
– Reflect on lessons learned from this period and how they might influence their own leadership and the relationship that they have with themselves and others
As important as these needs are, we know all too well, that the spaces to think and reflect deeply on such matters are few and far between. This lack of space can mean that there are very few avenues for exploring and talking in depth about the immense challenges of this past year and also exploring solutions for moving forward.
Our “Developing Headspace” programme has been designed to meet this need. The programme has run successfully for several years and in light of recent events, our September cohort will have a particular focus on restoration and rejuvenation and what this means in the lives of Headteachers.
The programme will provide a reflective space for leaders to renew perspective, think strategically and refresh the vitality of their core purpose. It will also support individual capacity for authentic, inspiring and sustainable leadership, as well as provide on-going care, support and encouragement for leaders across the school year.
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…