How many times as a school leader have you experienced a crisis of confidence? There may have been times when you’ve made a difficult decision and others have doubted you, or days when your confidence has been knocked by a series of uninvited criticisms.
Unless your coated in Teflon, I’d guess you’d say incidences like these, that bring about feelings of self-doubt and worry are regular occurrences. They appear to come with the territory of school leadership. Yet, as common as they might be, it is essential that as a school leader you find ways to overcome these negative feelings when they arise.
It is your confidence that inspires and ignites it in others. Because of this interplay between your own levels of confidence and that displayed in others, it is essential that as a school leader you pay attention to developing practices that actively nurture and build your own.
You may already have your own practices in place, but experience has taught me that there are three essential practices that school leaders need to cultivate if they are to protect, nurture and strengthen their self-confidence. It might be worth reviewing these and asking yourself how many of these do you practice on a regular basis?
1. Practice accepting praise
I know that as a school leader you see the worth and potential of every child in your school. I know that you want the best for them and whatever attempts they make to succeed, you praise them.
You praise them for their effort. You praise them for their tenacity and dogged determination. You praise them for their creativity and ability to think outside the box. You praise them for not wanting to be like anyone else but for simply striving to be the best version of themselves.
You do this because you know how important praise is to a young person’s sense of self and their own growing capacity to believe in themselves and what they can achieve. You see the difference that it makes when they hear your words of encouragement. Some even seem to visibly grow a few inches taller. It is as if your words of encouragement sink into their very souls and fertilizes the soil out of which their confidence grows.
Why should the impact of receiving praise be any different for adults? Yet, I have lost count of the number of school leaders I have spoken with who appear to have forgotten just how important it is to their own sense of self, to accept praise. Many fear that they will develop a grandiose sense of self and an inflated ego. This will only happen if you are surrounded by sycophants and have no sure sense of your own self-worth.
Learning to accept praise not only builds our own confidence, but also helps us to become better at offering it to others and thereby helping others to develop their confidence as well. So, the next time some-one offers you praise, don’t brush it away and say, “Oh, it was nothing.” Simply say “Thank you”.
Allow yourself to acknowledge the positive feelings that arise when your efforts have been affirmed and acknowledged. Allow your soul to be nurtured, whilst at the same time allowing confidence in your own abilities to be strengthened too.
2. Practice taking risks
Successful leadership is in part to do with an individuals’ ability to build their sense of self-determination and confidence through a willingness to engage courageously with risk.
In our current educational climate, it can frequently feel as though being courageous and taking a risk is one of the most fool-hardy things an individual can do. With increased levels of public scrutiny and even higher levels of personal accountability, it can feel safer to play by the rules and to do as you are told. However, if you adopt this mind-set towards every aspect of your life as a leader, you will gradually find that any sense of personal advocacy and ability to positively influence outcomes for yourself is severely diminished.
You don’t need to be living life in the fast lane. As a school leader, your life is busy enough already. But you do need to be alert to the signals ahead and know when you need to follow your road map and not somebody else’s. When you regularly practise following your internal navigation system, you discover that risks that are taken and guided by your moral compass help you to:
– Stretch beyond the confines of your comfort zone
– Build belief in your own strength and abilities
– Become an active agent for influencing events around you
3. Practice developing your capacity for reflection
“I thought I’d been reflecting, but all I’d actually been doing was criticising myself and getting stuck with repetitive negative thoughts about myself. No wonder my confidence has taken a hit!”
These are the words of a Head Teacher that I’d recently been in conversation with. This realisation came when I invited her to respond to different types of questions about her role. I did not ask her to respond to the all too common type of questions that school leaders are often asked; the type of questions where you are called to justify, argue, defend or explain the school’s results, your role or actions you have taken.
Instead, I invited her to reflect on questions that were connected to her ‘Why?’
– What were her reasons for being a school leader?
– What were her reasons for choosing her current school to work in?
– What lessons had she learnt about herself as a leader?
– How had she grown as a result of her role?
Through deep reflection and finding meaningful answers to these questions, she soon came to realise that reflection diminishes the power of negative self-talk and assists the meeting of our deeper needs as human beings.
Reflection enables us to develop the courage to do the inner work of being human. Thereby ensuring that the outer work of school leadership is done with greater levels of integrity, authenticity and confidence.
An Opportunity to Re-Connect with your ‘Why’…
In order to sustain high levels of personal performance, confidence and motivation (particularly amidst the challenges of School Leadership), I believe our leaders need chance to explore the questions that are of real importance to them as a person and in their roles.
They need chance to step back from the daily grind of the role and reflect on the leader they want to be, what inspires and drives them as a leader and what they need to do to keep their hope alive.
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…