How to Overcome the Isolation of School Leadership

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.

Without a doubt the pandemic brought many unexpected challenges for us all. However, one of the silver linings of the past two years has been a heightened awareness of what matters most for all of us. We learnt:

– The value of community

– The need to stay connected

– The importance of being supported

We also learnt that deeper connections matter, none of us can survive alone and to thrive and overcome the challenges of leadership life we need real, deep, and meaningful connections with others.

That’s why we have launched our new “Heads Together”, a new School Leadership community, designed to connect like-minded school-leaders and to provide a watering hole for inspiration, encouragement and support.

Our “Heads Together” Community is designed to provide School Leaders with:

– A vital network of support to help individuals manage the emotional strains and stresses of the role

– Collaborative forums for thoughtful exploration around timely and important leadership themes

– Inspiration and encouragement throughout the year to help keep leaders’ passion and purpose alive

If you’d like to find out more about the community, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…

Learn more


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