You will know, more than most, that sometimes headship can feel like the loneliest job in the world! There will be times, even when you are surrounded by a school full of children and colleagues who share the day to day tasks of leading and managing your school, when you feel as though there is absolutely no one that you can turn to.
These are the times perhaps, when as a headteacher, you feel most vulnerable. You may feel:
– Desperately alone
– That you have no one to turn to
– There is no one within your work context with whom you can share exactly how you feel
To make matters worse, when you try to talk to friends and family outside of school, many may offer a sympathetic ear, but you soon realise that sympathy is not always what you need and sometimes their well meaning responses, leave you wishing you hadn’t bothered to ‘burden’ them with your problems after all.
So what do you do? Do you, like many headteachers, find ways to cope on your own? Do you increasingly find yourself …
– Thinking that you are the only one that has the answer?
– Moving further inside your office, your thoughts and your concerns?
– Becoming detached from relationships with colleagues, friends and family?
– Relying more upon what you can do to address a situation rather than seeking help from other others?
These strategies for dealing with the loneliness of headship may appear to work in the short term, but in the long term they will only serve to add to your feelings of isolation and loneliness. Headship is not a role that can be survived in isolation, as isolation can lead to two very serious forms of detachment.
– Detachment from yourself: so that you are not in tune with your emotions and feelings and what they are signalling to you
– Detachment from relationship with others; Your relationships with others become fragmented and you are no longer able to communicate to others just exactly what your support needs are.
So what are the answers? What can you do to help overcome loneliness from life at the top? Here are three quick tips, which if acted upon could make a big difference to how effective you are in dealing with the loneliness of headship.
Three quick tips for overcoming loneliness
1. Talk: Find someone to talk to, someone who won’t judge you, but will give you the freedom and space, to talk confidentially about the issues and challenges that you face in your role
2. Network: Find other like minded headteachers, with whom you can truly be yourself and help each other to problem solve. Very often you’ll find that in sharing your problem with others you are not alone and the very act of sharing opens up new perspectives for addressing challenges that you might be facing.
3. Remember you have a life outside of school. If you have let friendships or other close relationships slip, make a concerted effort to invest some quality time in being with those who love and care about you.
Being a headteacher doesn’t have to be a lonely job, if you take the right steps today, you can bring a greater sense of joy and fulfilment to your role.
Building Supportive and Collaborative Networks
It is my belief that in order to tackle the isolation of Headship, our Heads need supportive and collaborative networks that can allow them to connect and share experience with other school leaders.
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…