How to Stay True to your Values as a School Leader

I have recently been introduced to the work of Irish author and poet, David Whyte. One of his books that I have  found impossible to put down, “The Three Marriages – Reimagining work, self and relationship” is a book that I would highly recommend to any Headteacher or school leader. In both poetic and poignant terms, he shows us how we can show up as our true authentic selves across all areas of our lives.
If you are a Headteacher or a School Leader, you know that authenticity brings the greatest joy and the greatest challenge. You know the feelings of exhilaration that are experienced when you see the evidence around you of your vision being fulfilled. Equally you know just how disconcerting it can feel and the negative impact circumstances can have on on your own well-being when:
– Your values are challenged
– Situations beyond your control ask you to compromise on deeply held beliefs
– Others disregard who you are and make demands for you to behave in ways that are out of character

Being authentic means digging deep

To rise above these challenges you need to be able to dig deep and have a personal reservoir that you can constantly draw from. David Whyte refers to this personal reservoir as an ‘inner well’ and says,

Often our inability to draw on that inner well can become more and more painful, the further we get from the water. If we are involved in the outer world in ways that betray our conscience or deeply held beliefs, then ever simple internal questions can become very difficult to ask.”

The questions that David is referring to, are those questions that keep us rooted in who we are and give us our deep sense of self and purpose. They are questions that must be continually revisited (particularly under times of stress and with SAT’s week upon us, this just might be one of those times for you). These questions bring deep personal alignment. They ensure that our beliefs on the inside, match the behaviours that we show to others on the outside. They help us maintain our authenticity.
If you are feeling that an inner drought may have set in and that you have travelled far from your ‘inner well’, the questions below will help you to reconnect with your inner spring and personal motivations.

Questions from the ‘Inner well’

1. What do you see as your purpose in life?
2. What are the reasons that you have chosen to be in the leadership role that you are in?
3. What are the values that underpin your leadership vision and behaviours?
4. When you show up as your true authentic self, what does it look and feel like?
5. How do others respond to you and what do their responses tell you about the positive impact of your leadership?
When we engage with these types of questions, David Whyte suggests that we deepen our understanding of who we are and how to authentically engage with our work and the roles we occupy.
He says,

“We must have a relationship with our work that is larger than any individual job description we are given. A real work, like a real person, grows and changes and surprises us, asking continually for a recommitment.’

It is my belief that this is exactly what many Heads and School Leaders know to be true. Your work is larger than your job description. It is a real work, full of constant surprises and challenges. All of which you must learn to rise above, so that you can maintain your well being and be of best service to yourself and others.


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


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