What happens when Headteachers drop the Leadership Mask?

If you are head teacher, then I am sure, this image will speak volumes to you!

You know exactly what it takes each and every day to step into the role of Head teacher and enter a system that so often forgets that you are human. A system, which despite all the well-intentioned rhetoric, expects you to constantly withstand the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. And, no matter how fast and furious they might be, requires that you always come out victorious, with an ever-present smile on your face.
However, I am sure you know as a Head, many a time life just isn’t like that. Those slings and arrows, whether from a colleague, an inspector, a parent or a Governor, can hurt. They can pierce the soul and leave you feeling utterly down-spirited and disheartened.
It is because of this fact and working closely as we do, with Headteachers, that we decided to host our termly Headteacher’s Nurture Meals. We wanted to do something, that clearly said to Headteachers,

 ‘You are of value; you are of worth and you have the right to have your needs met’


We are always very clear in our purpose. This was designed not to be one of those Head teacher gathering where individuals met with their peers, but still felt the need to be to wear their leadership mask or suit of armour, for fear of being judged or criticised for anything that they might say. We wanted to make sure this was different.
Different…. But how? Well … we create a loose framework for discussion, but in the context of having an informal meal. There are meant to be no;
– Obligatory tasks
– Agendas [ particularly of the hidden kind!]
– No fixed outcomes
It is simply a space for fellow Heads to lean back and for a couple of hours, drop the leadership mask, appreciate and enjoy the company of fellow School Leaders.
When we first hosted this meal back in November 2016, the event was as one Head teacher shared after our first meal, ‘A Triumph’. We believe she felt this was so, because in that space, Heads, together, discovered four key things that happen when they drop their leadership masks….

The Four Key Things that happened when Headteachers dropped their Leadership Mask at our First Meal

1. When experiences are shared ‘but not in a posturing way’, Heads connect back to themselves.
We were told that this was so vital to the quality of conversations that took place over delicious food and good quality wine. Yes, the wine may have helped us all to unwind, just a bit, but it was more the fact that colleagues felt that they were equal with one another. No one was posturing as a ‘Super –Head’, the one who has everything sorted, is devoid of emotion and doesn’t feel a thing. Each and every person present, could just ‘be’. In an environment of mutual trust, respect and understanding, individuals found that they could still be Heads, but without the unhealthy attachments and behaviours that the role so often carries with it.
2. Laughter heals the soul
Gathered together as they were, without the need to defend oneself, many colleagues found that they had much in common, and as they shared stories of their leadership journeys to date, moments of hilarity and laugher filled the room. There was a tangible sense of individuals letting go of the weight of their roles and allowing laugher to heal their souls. It was clear laughter made the weight of their roles just that much lighter to carry, if only for a few hours.
3. You realise you are not alone or going insane
The nature of the meal and conversations that flowed, helped many to gain a different kind of perspective. They helped to restore some sense of hope and sanity, through being listened to and sharing ‘The madness of Headship’, that only fellow Heads can truly understand. As one colleague said, “I felt relieved that I was not alone, and other insane events were happening to sane head teachers”
4. Good company can be a great antidote for the weary
How many times have you found yourself putting off going out with friends or colleagues, because you feel driven by the demands of your role and feel that work must take precedence? It is not un- common to feel this way.  As another Head, fed back to us;

“Initially, I thought I would not stay until the end – due to work pressures, but the company and the relaxed nature of the event encouraged me to just relax for a couple of hours!!! Usually, unheard of mid-week!”

Needless to say, as with all the other Heads who were there, she left the evening with her wells re-filled and a renewed sense of energy and purpose.


Without a doubt the pandemic brought many unexpected challenges for us all. However, one of the silver linings of the past two years has been a heightened awareness of what matters most for all of us. We learnt:

– The value of community

– The need to stay connected

– The importance of being supported

We also learnt that deeper connections matter, none of us can survive alone and to thrive and overcome the challenges of leadership life we need real, deep, and meaningful connections with others.

That’s why we have launched our new “Heads Together”, a new School Leadership community, designed to connect like-minded school-leaders and to provide a watering hole for inspiration, encouragement and support.

Our “Heads Together” Community is designed to provide School Leaders with:

– A vital network of support to help individuals manage the emotional strains and stresses of the role

– Collaborative forums for thoughtful exploration around timely and important leadership themes

– Inspiration and encouragement throughout the year to help keep leaders’ passion and purpose alive

If you’d like to find out more about the community, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…

Learn more


6 Responses

  1. I would love to attend the next meal but unfortunately already have an event booked that night. It definitely sounds like excellent ‘therapy’ for what can be, at times, a hellish job. Hopefully these meals will run on a termly basis.

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