Coaching & Leadership Development
November 21, 2016

Coaching for the Soul – Uncovering the One Thing Missing from the life of School Leaders

Coaching for the Soul – Uncovering the One Thing Missing from the life of School Leaders


Have you ever wondered, why in your life as a school leader, it can at times feel so hard to connect with all that is within you that still desires to flourish?


If this or similar questions have ever crossed your mind, reflect for a moment or two on the words of American Social activist and educator, Parker J Palmer:


“The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions.”


His words may provide you with the answer you have been seeking! Your soul, that which is the very best within you, will only step out, will only step forward, when there is no fear of:


– Judgement

– Criticism

– Ridicule

– Hurt

– Misunderstanding


Does your day-to-day life as a school leader facilitate this? If it does, Hooray! Hooray, for you and hooray for the children in your school. That’s just how it should be. Schools should be a place where people feel safe, sincere warmth and appreciation are characteristic of all relationships and everyone, from the youngest child to the oldest member of staff flourishes.


Yet… we know, that as much as this is a deep [if sometimes hidden] desire for many school leaders, only a small handful every fully experience the conditions that enable their ‘souls to speak their truth’.


And yet, when we do, when we create, ‘quiet, inviting and trustworthy conditions’ a beauty and magic unfolds! We are perhaps more comfortable using such words when reading fairy tales and stories to our pupils, never becoming fully comfortable with just how applicable they are to the stories of our own lives, and that which our souls wish to express.


However, I was fortunate enough to witness a plethora of small magic moments at our Coaching for the Soul Workshop last week.


Coaching for the Soul – Why bother?


Curious to know why, school leaders had carved time out of their busy schedules to attend, I was told by participants that they had come because they wanted:


– ‘Me’ time

– Time to focus on their own well-being

– To explore how to get the best out of themselves and others

– Nourishment

– To dig deep

– A space to reflect

– Time for their souls

– To overcome feelings of seeping negativity

– Find their love and passion for the role again


Together, we explored the impact of the current educational landscape. We drew attention to the need for school leaders to pay as much attention, if not more to their own inner landscapes. To enable them to develop the necessary emotional and psychological tools for navigating the sometimes cold and hostile terrain of school leadership.


It was as we explored these issues, sometimes as a group and sometimes in pairs, that I witnessed these magic moments unfolding:


– Shoulders that were drooped straightened

– Eyes that had lost their glimmer, regained their sparkle

– Arms crossed in defense, opened to receive

– Tense faces opened to smiles

– Doubt and worry transformed to hope


One of the school leaders in the room, Nathan [who also happened to be an accomplished musician] eloquently captured what within our few hours together, we had all come to understand. Nathan said,


“Being a school leader is like being a musician. You go on stage. You perform for your audience. It is so easy to get caught up in negative self-talk and to make yourself believe that the audience is only looking out for one thing, the mistakes that you might make when you play. You think people hear every mistake, that you need to hit 95% of the notes, otherwise everyone will be sitting there thinking “this is rubbish.”


 There was one performance that I gave and all I could do was focus on the negative and the criticism that I thought was going to be levied at me for my performance. It was one of my worst performances but none came.


I spoke to my tutor afterwards and he said to me, “The truth is you don’t have to hit 95%, you can hit 75% and people won’t notice or mind as what’s important is staying connected to the tune of the music. Staying with the emotion of the music is the one thing you have to focus on as it is only from that place, from being inside, that your best music can ever be played.”


Nathan’s words touched us. I hope they touch you too. As a school leader, you will only ever make your best music, you will only ever play your best tune, when you stay connected to the emotion, when you stay connected to one central thing. That one central thing must be … the soul of your endeavour.



Bringing yourself back to that Central Thing


Following the great success of our “Coaching for the Soul” workshops, we have now decided to run a different kind of workshop to further support the well-being and leadership vitality of our schools’ leaders.


This interactive workshop is designed to offer a chance for School Leaders to connect, share experiences of School Leadership, explore what matters most in good leadership & identify ways of leading which allow them to do so with greater authenticity.


The session will also offer school leaders the space and time to reflect on what it means to be a School Leader today, the impact and the challenges as we seek to identify new ways forward to support school leaders to become their best selves and maintain their ability to lead and inspire.


Date: Tuesday 13th June

Time: 9.00am – 12.30pm

Venue: St Marylebone Girls School, Marylebone, London


Get Your Free Tickets


  1. We’re very much in tune here, Viv. Maybe we should have a conversation sometime. As an organist I also exactly recognise the reality as well as the metaphorical truth of Nathan’s story. Let’s have a conversation about what can be done to break what I call ‘the conspiracy of silence’ and change the education culture

  2. This is a beautiful piece. It is clear school leaders are looking for some escape routes to be by themselves? We must continue advocating balance. Thank you for sharing this Viv. And for providing the platform for free coaching- the objectives as stated are fantastic, very well done


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