Why Headteachers Need Different Support to Teachers

Everyone can use support in their careers. But what many people don’t realise is that the further you progress in your career, the more support you need. Many assume that once you climb to the Head teacher post that;
– Either support is no longer required or,
– You require a similar level of support to that received in previous posts

However, nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is, the role of Head teacher is markedly different from any other teaching or leadership post that you might have held; strategically and operationally, mentally and emotionally. It is for these reasons that Heads need support that is bespoke and tailored to meet the specific personal and professional challenges of the role.

When you are a Head there are a myriad of challenges that you will face; challenges that require you to receive support that is different from your teachers and others that you lead and manage…

1. Isolation

Like all top leadership positions, School Leadership and headship in particular brings with it the type of power that isolates: positional power. The higher up you are in an organisation, the more your positional power means that you not only have increased pressures and responsibilities, it also means an increased distancing in relationships. Learning how to balance the need for human connection, with the need to maintain the integrity of the leadership role, is a challenge many School Leaders face. Individuals have to decide where their personal and professional boundaries lie and the degree to which they will give of themselves.

When you are ‘lower down’ the school hierarchy it is much easier to build relationships with those who are like you and to share problems with those who will have had similar experiences. However, as you climb, the number of individuals that hold the same or similar post diminishes until, finally, you reach the top – Headteacher – and look around to find that there is no one in your setting who holds the same position as you.

In learning to cope with the isolation brought about by positional power, leaders have to learn how to develop new relationships with themselves. Once the boundaries have been drawn, School Leaders need to learn how to be comfortable with their own company: how to trust their own inner voice, particularly at times when no outside counsel is available.

2. Responsibility

As a Head, the buck stops with you in a way that would have been impossible to imagine as a teacher. When you become a Headteacher, you carry the full burden of responsibility for delivering the whole school vision and for meeting the needs of a community that believes and trusts that whatever the problem, you can fix it!

Very often it can feel as though you are carrying the full weight of everyone’s expectations on your shoulders. No matter how diverse their expectations might be, from parents to politicians, you are expected to shoulder everything.

The huge pressure that creates on you would be hard to deal with in any situation, but when you add in the low trust/high accountability culture that’s so prevalent in our school system, it can be crippling.

3. Complexity of Headship

While you have to deal with the complexities of behaviour and relationship dynamics in your class and with your colleagues as a teacher, it can’t compare to doing the same thing for all of the classes and staff in a school, the Governors, parents, politicians, and the various other stakeholders.

As a Head, you are now required to demonstrate additional expertise as a social worker, child psychiatrist, politician and community worker, all within the space of a day – even though you’ve never been trained in these areas.
When you are working in a school, engaging day-to-day with a wide range of stakeholders, you can expend a great deal of mental and physical energy trying to meet the emotional needs of others.

That’s why it’s vital that you regularly invest time in meeting your own needs- to renew your strength, your energy and your purpose, otherwise you will have nothing left to give to others.

Failing to do so can mean that you run 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, but we also can begin to derive less satisfaction from our lives.

4. External Pressures

Heads’ personal lives often suffer, sadly, due to the nature of the role and the weight of external responsibility that weighs heavy for many. In their endeavours to meet the demands that are made of them, many work 60+ hour weeks and on weekends, just to survive in their roles.

As a result, without realising it – Heads can find they are not giving proper attention to both themselves and their relationships dearest to them.

When I first became a Head, I looked at all the other Heads around me and firmly believed that amidst these challenges, no matter the cost, you had to soldier on no matter what.

I wrongly believed there was no other option. I thought that if I asked for help, it would either be a sign of weakness or it would be used against me. I see many School Leaders adopt this position, in today’s high stakes/high risks educational landscape it is understandable.

However, it doesn’t mean that it’s correct and it certainly doesn’t mean we should accept it as the norm. We all need support from time to time, so that when the going gets tough, as it often does, we don’t fall down and remain on the ground, but instead we are supported to get back up again and with renewed focus and energy, carry on towards our dream.

When we ask for help we can discover that:

– True courage means facing our fears, hurts, worries and self-doubt
– Vulnerability far from being a sign of weakness, is a sign of strength
– We are led to a path that leads to greater personal and professional authenticity
– A new door opens to a bigger, brighter version of ourselves.

If you would like to discover how asking for help can transform your reality of Headship, then please accept our offer of a free confidential “Coaching for The Soul” support call. This call is designed to provide you with an opportunity to…

– 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
– Reflect on recent events and the impact they have had on you as a leader and as a person.
– Gain clarity in your thoughts and your current situation

Book Your Call

Places are limited – so if you are determined to take charge of your own well-being, book today to avoid disappointment.


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