It’s easy to understand why, if you are a Head teacher, that the majority of your time and energy is invested in growing and building your school. Without your hard work, dedication and most importantly leadership, success would be a hard thing for your school to come by.
However, although you may be fulfilling your role as the school’s leader and supporting its growth, there is another equally important development area that many Heads neglect. Indeed, it is because this area is often overlooked that many find themselves feeling disillusioned, frustrated and very often burnt out! To stop this phenomenon, Heads must give attention to their own personal growth and development.
School leadership is as much about personal growth as it is about organisational growth and development. On this journey there may be many a time when as a head teacher, you may feel that you are running to stand still!
Events around you may seem to spiral out of your control, accompanied by an internal dissonance, that leaves you with no ready anchor point to bring you back to place of inner equilibrium. In these moments exhaustion can take over and the journey forward can seem more and more of an uphill climb. You may begin to feel:
– Self-doubt, questioning your own judgement and actions.
– Worried about aspects of your life that may not have troubled you in the past
– Anxiety when faced with new and more complex array of challenges
– Loss of control when everything seems to spiral and pressure mounts.
To make matters worse, when you consider voicing your concerns, you may feel that other people won’t fully understand just how you are feeling. A real fear being that if you share your vulnerabilities, colleagues might start to think to that you aren’t up the job (because we all know that head teachers are supermen and superwomen and could never really experience any such human emotions as worry and self-doubt!)
So if this resonates, what can you do to start to change things and to pay greater attention to your own development needs? Well, you can start by simply asking yourself:
“How can I begin to prioritise my own personal growth and development?”
The time that you devote to your own development is essential. If you are serious about finding sustainable ways to support the growth of yourself and others, it really is a non-negotiable. It may mean a paradigm shift and creating a new frame of reference for relating school development to your own, but once the shift has been made, tackling your personal growth will become a much easier endeavor.
To help you along the way, here are three key steps that you can take to support your own growth and development:
How to make sure you grow alongside your School
1. Find a safe space. When we feel safe we are able to let down our guard and come out from behind our defences. We have the honest conversations that we need to have with ourselves and find deeper levels of truth, bravery and courage to guide our responses. New found depths of personal understanding help to bring greater levels of congruency and authenticity to the ‘outer’ work of being a school leader and leading others.
2. Set a goal. Be clear about the areas that you want to improve upon. To ensure that you set yourself up for success, identify one personal goal that has real meaning for you; one that you know when achieved will have equal benefits for you and your school. Then decide the steps that you will take to achieve your goal. Don’t forget to build in your own reward system too!
3. Stop, Pause & Reflect. Remember, “life can only be lived forwards, but must be understood by looking backwards” To be able to make sense of the parallel journeys of yourself and your school, you must create time to stop, pause and reflect. Seek to build in regular moments in your life as a leader, where you can look back on the past week, month, term or year and look for the lessons that time and experience have taught you about life and school leadership. For every school leader the lessons will be different, but nevertheless they will be there!
A Chance to Stop, Pause & Reflect
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.
As a result, it can feel though there is rarely any time for you to take a step back and reflect on one’s leadership and more widely on the issues you’re facing. 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 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…