Tell me if this sounds familiar: you feel like you’ve been going through the motions for a while now. The joy in school leadership that you used to feel has been subsumed by endless operational details, paperwork, and the stress of caring for hundreds of people every single day.
If that sounds familiar, you’re definitely not alone. Burnout is at epidemic levels among those in school leadership, and so many people think that unhappiness is just the nature of the job. But that’s where they’re wrong.
It is absolutely possible to get that joy in school leadership again — but it won’t happen on its own. Think about it like this: you know you have to put petrol in your car if you want it to run. Similarly, you need to make a regular practice of “topping up” your self so that you don’t end up burned out and resentful. Here are some good ways to get started:
1. Get back to your big why.
It’s easy to lose sight of why you wanted to get into school leadership to begin with, but this is the anchor that will keep you going when times get tough. If it’s been a while since you thought about it, then make it a priority this week to set aside some time and think it through again.
What are your values? What gives you energy and joy? Why did you want to do this job to begin with?
Once you’ve done that, you can then take stock of where you are now and where there may be some gaps between the reality and your big why. How can you bridge those gaps?
3. Get a life outside of School!
Do things that you truly enjoy, laugh with your family, take up a hobby that you really like, go on dates with your partner, even if it is just to your local Italian — anything to get some time away from the job and to give yourself a well-earned rest.
3. Seek out those golden moments.
Similarly, make it a practice to look for those things at school that make you feel good. Whether it’s joining in with the rehearsals for the school choir, reading books to the children in the reception class or watching them at play during break times, try to find at least one thing every day that lifts your spirits.
4. Create a practice of praise
Finally, you need to make sure that you’re praising yourself regularly. I know, I know, if you’re like most Heads you just cringed reading that. But this isn’t about some sort of self-serving, navel-gazing exercise in arrogance. In light of all the things you have to struggle with every single day, it’s a necessary sanity-saver. Just for one week, try writing down three things that you did well during the day before you go to bed at night. You’ll be amazed at the difference that acknowledging all the little things makes.
5. Look for support outside of your immediate circle
You need to make sure that you have some good emotional and mental support, and I’m not talking about other Heads. While it’s great to have industry friends, what so often tends to happen is that Heads transition from comforting each other into sharing war stories.
When this happens the conversations place a drain on your emotions and you only end up feeling even more battle weary. Having a neutral source of support outside your immediate circle is so important.
Conversations with a professional outside of your context can enable you to gain new insights and see your problems from a different perspective. Rather than drain you, these conversations help to fill up your emotional wells so that you are able to approach the demands of your job with renewed energy and vigour.
I believe that our leaders need this non-judgemental form of support to provide them 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 – I believe 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.