What are the growth needs of the soul, and why do they matter in school leadership?

I have been at the helm of Integrity Coaching for over fifteen years. When I first set up the company, I did so with much fear and trepidation. I had a vision of what the company could be, but at the time, I had only an inkling of how that vision could be realised.

A Quest for Authentic Support

As a young Headteacher in the late 1990s, my soul, my innermost being, ached for support that could embrace the totality of who I was; support that could see behind my headship persona, see my vulnerabilities and help me name them and bring them into the light. But alas, as much as I searched, I could not find any such support.

Consequently, when I eventually left Headship, I knew that whatever my next life chapter would be, it would have to involve meeting the growth needs of the soul. As a Head, I had become tired of support that, although I was told was personal, it most clearly was not. It was only personal, in as much as I was meeting with another human being. That was as far as it got! Most of the support I received had very clearly to do with holding me to account; asking the type of questions that rarely had anything to do with my ‘soul purpose’, my vocational vitality. The type of questions that, if asked, would have helped me to stay fuelled from the inside out.

Looking back and having spent thousands of coaching hours walking alongside Heads and CEOs, I know without a shadow of a doubt, that if we in education do not consistently and intently seek to meet the growth needs of the soul, then just as we have seen over the past decades, we will continue to see rafts of school leaders leave the profession because their deeper, personal ( what I am calling soul growth needs) have not been met.

Defining the Soul’s Growth Needs

So, before I go any further, I guess it would be helpful to define what I mean when I talk about the growth needs of the soul.

Let’s begin first of all by defining the term soul.

I have found this definition by Jungian Psychologist James Hollis to be particularly helpful:

“Soul is the literal translation of the Greek word psyche, a metaphor for what we consider to be our essence.”

So, think of your soul as your own unique blueprint. It’s what separates you from others, animates you, and enables you to delight in all aspects of life. Authors such as Parker J Palmer and Richard Rohr define it as the True Self. The part of us that is revealed when the Ego defences are put to one side. This part of us needs to be nurtured and cared for. It has its own growth needs!

Nurturing the Soul: An Educational Imperative

However, sadly, in our education system, this area of growth and support for school leaders is often neglected. Our system is entrenched in competition and individual survival strategies. These only serve to meet the ego’s needs for gratification and affirmation. As a result, the soul’s needs tend to get pushed aside.

To be fully healthy, functioning adults, we all need relationships and activities in our lives that support the growth needs of the soul.

Just take a moment to reflect on the growth needs of the soul below and ask yourself, “To what degree do I have relationships or engage in activities that move beyond survival and have more to do with personal growth to enable me to thrive in the world?”

The Growth Needs of the Soul

1. Spiritual Connection: Any fans of Paul Weller (as I am! ) may be familiar with a lyric from his latest song, “Soul Wanderings”. The line is “I want to believe that there is something greater than me and I humbled by the majesty of the sea and the stars…” All personal and spiritual writers give credence to this yearning within humans to touch the numinous and find that within themselves that gives their life a greater sense of meaning and purpose.

2. Creativity and Expression: Notwithstanding many government edicts to squeeze creativity out of the curriculum, most educators I meet fully appreciate and understand how fundamental creativity is in shaping the growing child. Yet, a strange contradiction happens once individuals reach the giddy heights of school leadership.  A form of expression that enables us to understand ourselves better and plum the depth of our inner world gets lost. How many of us have attended leadership CPD with a creative slant? I guess the answer would be not many.

    For the very same reasons, the profession has rallied against cutting the arts, recognising that their absence significantly reduces our emotional and spiritual connections to life; their omission within CPD courses for school leaders elicits similar outcomes.

    3. Service and Contribution. If you have heard me speak, you will know that I talk of education as a vocation, a calling. I firmly believe that as educators, we all have within ourselves a deep gladness’ that can, if properly nurtured, meet the ‘world’s deepest needs’. The sadness is, with the pressures of school life, this deep gladness, this deep joy, often gets buried underneath the slurry of accountability. Consequently, the activities that as educators, should provide us with a sense of fulfilment become few and far between and any sense of vocational purpose is diminished.

    Meeting the Soul’s Growth Needs: What can you do?

    At Integrity Coaching, we believe that one way to meet the soul’s growth needs centers around CPD that understands that:

    “A teacher’s capacity to teach well is linked to a set of affable qualities… that often become characterised as heart, passion, or connectedness. These intricate qualities emerge from a teacher’s life’s inner core or landscape.”

    Consequently, we advocate for a paradigm shift in professional development that transcends conventional coaching approaches to delve into the depths of the soul. Our Essential Coaching Skills Programme offers a transformative journey towards reconnecting with one’s true self, equipping school leaders to authentically meet their growth needs and those of their teams.

    Join the Journey

    If this resonates with you, why not embark on this transformative journey with us? Our upcoming cohort commences on September 26th and 27th, offering limited spaces for those eager to delve into the soulful realms of educational leadership.

    If you are interested, click here to register now to unlock the potential within yourself and empower those you lead to thrive.


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