Back in 2017, we held a series of ‘Coaching for the Soul’ workshops for senior school leaders. These sessions began with individuals reflecting on a number of different leadership quotes.
One school leader commented on this one.
“Leadership is not the private reserve of a few charismatic men and women. It is a process that ordinary people use when they are bringing forth the best in themselves and others.”
(Kouzes and Posner)
With tears in her eyes, said something along the lines of, “I get it now, that’s the journey I have been on. I don’t have to be like other ‘super’ Heads and allow myself to be filled with self-doubt, because they all look so wonderful and amazing at what they do. I just need to be me and as hard as it might be, I just need to get on with discovering how to be the best version of myself.”
And she is right! That’s what true leadership is about; to lead others, we must be able to lead ourselves first. A task that is much harder than might first appear.
Understanding what it takes to lead ourselves
The task of leading self is the process that is referred to in the Kouzes and Posner quote. It is a process that truly brave school leaders allow themselves to go through. It is a process that when fully embraced allows individuals to flourish and to become what the esteemed psychologist Carl Rogers termed “fully functioning” and what the equally esteemed, psychologist, Abraham Maslow termed “Self-Actualised”.
Living life from this place, leaders are:
– Concerned with personal growth
– Less concerned with the opinions of others
– Interested in fulfilling their potential
– Fuelled by a search for meaning and purpose
However, the question that many ask is, “How do I get there?” The path would be a lot easier if our education system had not forgotten that the actualising tendency exists in all of us and for it to be fully realised, nurturing environments need to be in existence. Such environments enable individuals to talk truthfully and honestly about the challenges of personal growth and experience what it means to flourish in every sense of the word.
My experience as a coach and from our ‘Coaching for the Soul’ Workshops is that school leaders put themselves on the path towards “Self –Actualising” when they learn to let go of four key things…
This must be the single biggest factor that stops school leaders from flourishing. American author and social activist, Parker J Palmer hit the nail on the head, when he said,
“The external structures of education would not have the power to divide us as deeply as they do, if they were not rooted in one of the most compelling features of our inner landscape – fear”
When school leaders make a conscious decision to let go of this fear and its accompanying inner narratives, they occupy the role of school leader in ways that are affirming of their own humanity and vulnerabilities.
2. The security of your comfort zone
We all have our comfort zones, the areas in our lives where we feel safe and secure. However, if from time to time we do not develop the courage to step beyond its borders, we can constrict our own growth and develop habits that eventually diminish our sense of self. Leaders that are on the self -actualising trajectory know this.
They know when a leadership challenge is asking them to have the courage to step outside of the familiar, when it is asking them to become a bigger, better version of themselves. They don’t let the discomfort of the challenge thwart them. Instead they find meaningful ways to rise above the challenge and embody the leadership role with even greater levels of self-advocacy and self-belief.
3. Trying to be perfect
No one is perfect. Not even the Dalai-Lama! We all have flaws, we all make mistakes. We are human! When we can embrace our own humanity, and let go of old scripts that have led us to work harder and harder, to prove our own self- worth, we liberate ourselves from the past.
Flourishing school leaders get this. Yes, it is hard, but they get it. They know that they are ‘good enough’ and equally they know when their best is ‘good enough’. These are the leaders who know when to say ‘No’, who know when to stop, who readily admit their flaws and know how to lean in and garner the support of others, in both the good and the bad times.
4. Other people’s baggage
As a leader, you already have enough to carry, you do not need to add to the weight of your role, by taking on other people’s emotional baggage.
Learn to recognise that when ‘grown adults’ are stamping their feet, throwing their toys out of the pram and behaving like children, that it’s their stuff, not yours! Let it go.
Recognise your own emotional triggers to these behaviours and find ways to increase your own Emotional Intelligence, so that you remain firmly on course, even when others may have lost their way.
Flourishing Begins with a Choice…
If you are determined to stay in this profession and help create better futures for our children, then you have to remember that change starts with you.
This means that it is imperative that you commit to finding ways to flourish and to be your best self. So that in turn, those that you lead and manage, those young people in your care, will know the way, because you have modelled it for them.
I believe that to do this, our leaders need non-judgemental support and a space for them to “drop the leadership mask”, reflect on how well they are doing the job and what they could do better with someone who is impartial and understands the challenges they’re experiencing.
Social workers have supervision to help them process their toughest cases, and corporate executives have space for “lessons learned” and continuous improvement between projects.
Likewise, school leaders need a space where they can talk openly and honestly through difficult situations, how they’re feeling and find solutions.
Particularly with these challenges of Headship, such trusting and supportive relationships aren’t just helpful – they’re vital.
It is my belief that every school leader should have access to this invaluable form of support to ensure that when they fall, they are supported to get back up again and to carry on towards their dream. However, often such support can be one of the hardest things to find.
That’s why I am now offering free “Coaching for The Soul” support calls for school leaders to ensure that no School Leader would have to struggle to find the support they need.
This Free 30-minute call with me will provide you with a confidential, safe space where you can:
– Talk through the challenges you’re currently facing in your role
– Get support in locating next steps and solutions to help you overcome the issues you’re experiencing
– Explore what you want out of life as a School Leader
Places are limited – so if you are determined to take charge of your own well-being, book today to avoid disappointment.