With the increasing pace of change in our schools and heightened levels of public scrutiny and accountability, it takes a great deal of courage and bravery to be a school leader today.
There are many joys involved in the role, but equally as many challenges. It is not until many school leaders reach headship, that they realise that the stresses of the job are such that they need to strengthen their emotional resilience in order to both thrive and survive.
One of the reasons is, the rules of the game keep changing. As a result, school leaders become unsure of which rules to play by.
Imagine saying to a child, “Today I am going to teach you how to play tennis” and every time they thought they had mastered how to serve and felt confident in their own abilities [ based upon what you had told them] you then said to them “No, you’ve got it wrong. You now have to do it this way.”
Not only would they soon learn not to trust you, but also, they would never develop the depth of experience, knowledge and insight needed for them to become expert in the game. This is exactly what life is like for many school leaders today.
When we are unsure, we feel insecure. We don’t feel safe. Feelings of confidence, value and self-worth are replaced with feelings of fear, vulnerability and self- doubt. We begin to question our every thought, our every action, because we are never given enough time to ascertain whether they fit with the rules of engagement.
Consequently, emotional and mental reserves become rapidly depleted. It simply takes too much energy investing in a game for which there is very little reward.
We also know that across today’s educational landscape, relationships of genuine trust are few and far between. Forcing many a Head teacher to retreat to the ‘safety’ of their own office or school. Without a trusted guide, mentor or friend, navigating the current educational terrain can feel a very perilous task indeed.
I know from personal experience as a Head, just how lonesome the task of Headship can sometimes feel.
I remember feeling that I couldn’t turn to my school advisors or governors. Often questioning how could I show my vulnerability when accountability meant that every word, every sigh, every gesture, was interpreted as either capable or incapable. Rather than, this is a human being, carrying out an intensely emotionally demanding role, whose emotional needs must be attended to, both for her own well-being and the well-being of others in her school.
It was also difficult to share with those nearest and dearest to me. They sought to offer counsel and support, as friends and loved ones do, but it was never quite enough to ease my conflicted thoughts and bruised emotions.
So…what could have been different?
In an educational world of great uncertainty, where the emotional highs and lows are as frequent and intense as waves crashing on the shore, one of the questions that must be answered is, “How can Heads be supported to build their emotional resilience ?”
Well… take a look at athletes. They know success is hard won and that every training session, every competition, every win, every defeat, every injury will be accompanied by huge waves of emotion that could easily destabilise them and stop them from moving ever nearer towards their goal. So, what do they do about this? They get a coach! An individual who will help them to get over knock backs and defeats and come back stronger, more resilient and more focused.
It is my argument that Heads need a similar relationship in their lives. They need a trusted confidant, who is on their side. Someone who can help them learn how to play the leadership game on their terms, not compromise on who they are or their values and develop the emotional acuity necessary for navigating life as a Head today.
You have feelings and emotions just like the rest of us. So it’s important you have a space where you can share your thoughts, worries, concerns and find solutions to issues of key importance to you and your school – and get back in touch with the person inside.
When we take off our “leadership armour” & face our vulnerabilities we can allow ourselves to:
– Develop our Authenticity as a Leader – When we take off our armour, we can find we experience greater alignment between our inner/private world of thoughts, feelings and emotions and our outer/public world, which by contrast is on constant display to others and again as you know can be exhausting!
– Build a greater understanding of our emotions and their impact on us and how to develop greater levels of emotional resilience
– Be seen for who we truly are and learn to be compassionate and accepting of ourselves – warts and all!
That’s why for the last 12 months, I’ve been been supporting leaders with free “Coaching for The Soul” calls to give leaders a chance to drop the mask and help them to find new inspiration to keep going towards their vision.
These calls are confidential and have “no strings attached”, so if you feel like you’d benefit from a chance to drop the mask like this, please do book a call with myself using the link below…
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!