5 Tips for Reducing the Stress of Headship

You would not have reached where you are today if you didn’t know how to harness the power of hope to help you overcome the stresses of School Leadership.
We know that hope can be incredibly elusive. When external demands and pressures mount and crisis follows crisis, the light at the end of the tunnel can appear to be very faint and distant glimmer. In such times, hope is just as essential for your own well-being, as rain is for flowers in the desert.
As you seek to move forward in your endeavour to create brighter futures for our young people, here are five tips for keeping hope alive and reducing feelings of stress when the challenges arise…

Tip 1: Learn to keep one eye backward and another eye forward

In order to live more fully and to make progress in our lives, it is helpful to have a process in place that enables us to develop a greater understanding of our own personal/professional journeys. Such a process enables us to develop a greater understanding of where we have come from and where we are heading and to hopefully move forward with deeper levels of insight and wisdom.
When this becomes a regular pattern of behaviour, it becomes much harder for you to be knocked off course by the challenges of school life – you have a wider perspective for viewing events and understanding how they relate to the bigger picture, both personally and professionally.

Tip 2: Stay Connected

School leadership does not happen in a vacuum. Leaders need people, not only to follow them, but also to help them on their journey. The connections that you make as you move forward will have a great impact on the degree to which you are able to deal successfully with the challenges of School Leadership.
Paying attention to the relationships that you invest in and develop outside of school is just as important for your health and mental well-being, as is the amount of time you spend developing relationships in school. Be wise in your affiliations; relationships that drain your energy (although sometimes, if not often, this is unavoidable in a professional context) take great care in your personal relationships, to ensure there is a balance and that you have relationships that give back to you and do not leave you emotionally depleted.

Tip 3: Learn the art of Selfless Leadership

Nelson Mandela’s Biographer, Richard Stengel wrote, “We become our best selves through unselfish interaction with others”. In stating this he was referring to “the African model of leadership, which is better expressed as Ubuntu, the idea that people are empowered by other people.” Quite clearly this can only happen when Ego is put to one side.
The Selfless Leader is one who has outgrown the needs of the Ego for constant external praise and affirmation. The Selfless leader is one who understands that constant seeking of the approval of others only leads to greater stress and an increased distancing from one’s true identity. The Selfless leader understands that when all such things are put to one side, hope prevails, stress is reduced and greater bonds are formed with those you lead.

Tip 4: Bend, do not break

You may be familiar with the phrase ‘bend’ do not break, which some say has its origins in either one of Aesop’s fables, The Olive Tree and the Reed, or an old Chinese proverb that relates to the capacity of the bamboo to bend (and not break) even in the severest of storms. For too many School Leaders resilience has meant putting on a brave face while becoming detached from all feeling and emotion, they have become so ‘brittle’, that when the storms come, they have forgotten what it means to ‘bend’.
If you want to be able to withstand the storms of School Leadership, you have to be able to bend. You have to be able to allow yourself to feel and in so feeling, to be receptive to what your mind and your body are telling you – and take action that shows you are have understood the message!

Tip 5: Know you have a choice

During everything that the life of a School Leader throws at you, it is important to remember that you have a choice as to how you respond. When we understand this, we put our conscious selves back into the driving seat of our lives. We stay in control of ourselves, as opposed to life’s events taking control of us. It is not always easy.
It takes discipline and conscious effort to choose how we respond to life’s calamities. However, when we master the art and become better at taking control of our lives, we experience the peace that comes in no longer letting others unduly influence our experience of School Leadership. We also promote hope in ourselves and promote it in those who are close to us.


Rising to the Challenges of Headship

From managing excessive workloads, the impact of budget cuts and high levels of personal accountability and public scrutiny – over the years, the role of Headship has always been fraught with challenges and pressures.
However, since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic back in March 2020, sadly we’ve seen the intense demands on our School Leaders grow yet further.
Not only have leaders had to rapidly adapt to quickly changing government advice and establish new practices and protocols for virtual learning and health and safety monitoring, they’ve also been expected to provide support to their communities and inspiring leadership throughout these difficult times.
Having to manage months of relentless challenge and crisis management (alongside the emotional and psychological impact of the pandemic has taken on all of  us) has proven to be extremely challenging even for the most experienced and resilient Heads.
And it is now perhaps no surprise that many School Leaders who are reporting feeling battle weary, beleaguered and burnt out. As a result, an NAHT poll back in November 2020 found that almost half of Headteachers plan to leave prematurely – and 70% say job satisfaction has fallen in the past year.
With this, in mind – I believe there’s never been a stronger case for the need to ensure that our School Leaders are properly supported; strategically, operationally and emotionally to ensure they not only survive in the headship role, but also thrive in their attempts to deliver the best outcomes for our children.
Social workers have supervision to help them process their toughest cases, and corporate executives have space for “lessons learned” and continuous improvement between projects. Yet still, many Heads remain endemically under-supported, without spaces the need to off-load and encouragement they need as they manage the burden of the weight that they have been forced to carry.
Friends and family might offer a listening ear, but again it isn’t easy. Unless they have walked in your shoes, it can feel like no-one really fully understands what you are going through.
However, I know from my own experience as a Headteacher and now as an Executive coach that personalised support is vital, if leaders are to keep their hope alive and stay connected to their vision, passion and purpose.
That’s why I’m now offering free 1:1 Coaching calls to give senior leaders a chance to:
–  Talk through and get support with the challenges they’re currently facing
–  Reflect on events and the impact they’re having
–  Gain clarity about their current situation and plan a way forward


Book Your Call

 If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!


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