“A school leader’s vocational vitality, or capacity to be vital, present and deeply connected …. Is not a fixed, inedible condition, but a state that ebbs and flows with the context and challenge of leadership life.”
[ Intrator & Kunzman, 2006]
As a School Leader, I am sure you know this to be true. The energy that you had when you began the day at 5.30am in the morning, will not be the same as when you finish the day at 9.00pm in the evening. Your role is such that you are required to be all things to all people. In any given moment, you are expected to be:
– Productive and be seen to be productive
– On ‘parade’ and on display at all times
– Open to criticism/challenge and expected to be responsive [constructively so] at all times
– Comfortable with conflict
– Adaptable to ever-increasing and complex demands
– Switch modes quickly and efficiently
– Engage deeply and constructively with detail
– Apply the knowledge and expertise of trained counsellors and social workers
– Demonstrate political astuteness
– Understand the make-up and personality traits of all those you lead and manage
And the list goes on and on and on! The problem is, you expend a huge amount of emotional, mental and physical energy as you rush around seeking to tick off every item on the list. If time isn’t made to slow down and regain some type of inner equilibrium, dissonance and a growing disconnection with your original passion and purpose can become the norm. Leadership begins to lose its joy and it can be all too easy to fall out of love with a vocation that you once held so dear.
Key Questions to help School Leaders re-claim their vocational vitality
The balance of questions in the life of a School Leader are un-equal. If the only questions you are asked, are the ones that require you to justify, explain, give account and defend, you will end up leading from a very guarded position.
No-one wants to make themselves vulnerable. Particularly when the stakes are so high. Yet when we don’t, when we don’t allow space and time to reflect on a different type of question, we lose the connection with our heart’s purpose and the core of who we really are.
In an age where burn out and increased levels of early attrition from School Leadership have become commonplace, it is essential that more humane ways are found to keep School Leaders in the profession. If you are a School Leaders, finding these support systems can very often mean the difference between simply surviving in your role and instead, learning how to thrive.
A simple, but very effective first step, to help you move from surviving to thriving, is to reflect on questions that engage the heart and invite exploration of your big ‘Why’ and the reasons behind why you do what you do.
If you want your life as a School Leader to be different, then begin today. Find a quiet space, to reflect on these four key questions.
1. What aspects of your identity and integrity feel most supported and engaged by the work that you do?
2. What brings you joy in your role?
3. What aspects of your role facilitate you showing up as your best self?
4. What can you do to keep a deep connection between your vision and values and the reasons why you became a school leader?
You will get even more out of this exercise if you find someone you trust to simply share your responses with. If you are fortunate enough to find such a person, you will find that they will help you come to meet yourself on new terms. By their gift of listening they may just help to set you back on the path to re-connecting with your original passion, vision and purpose.
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…