How to Build Your Courage as a School Leader

If you are a School Leader, then it is my belief that you are going to need far more courage than most other individuals.

As on a daily basis, it would seem that you have to confront an array of challenging situations which to varying degrees leave you feeling:

– Threatened
– Afraid
– Weak
– Vulnerable
– Pushed to the limit
– Confused

It takes courage to meet these feelings head on and to not let them stop you from moving forward, but courage is not always easy to develop! We seem to find it easier to identify it in others, but harder to discover the route that we must take to find it in ourselves.

If you want to develop greater courage as a School Leader, then read through these six tips below.

1. Feel the Fear but choose to act anyway

Admit to yourself that you are afraid. When you admit to yourself the truth of what you are feeling, you then develop an honesty with yourself about the choices you must make to overcome your fear.

When we choose not to admit to ourselves that we are afraid, the actions that we then take are often less than conscious and are less to do with addressing our fear and more to do with simply masking it.

2. Press on in the face of adversity

As Winston Churchill famously said, “Never, never give up!” Just ensure that as you press on towards your goal, that you are supported by those who love and care for you and who have your best interests at heart.

It is fool hardy to press on without this. We all need love and support and in times of adversity, even more so.

3. Do not give into self doubt

We all have it that little voice that sits  ‘hidden in the back seat of our heads’ and when we are under stress, pops up  and tells us in the biggest and loudest voice possible that we cannot do, what we believe we must do.

Never give in to this voice. When you do, you only become a lesser version of yourself, both in your own eyes and in the eyes of others.

4. Put yourself first

This I know, is a hard one for most School Leaders and seem almost counterintuitive.” How?” You ask yourself, “Can I put myself first, when surely it’s the children’s needs that must be at the centre of all that I do?” Yes, the children’s needs must be central, but it is important to understand that their needs can never be adequately met when your own needs have been neglected. 

When you neglect to meet your own needs, creativity, innovation, courage and resilience are weakened as you become overwhelmed by tiredness and exhaustion. So learn to put your own needs first. Both you and the pupils in your school will reap the rewards of you being able to do so.

5. Listen to your heart

The word courage is derived from the French word ‘Coeur’ meaning heart. At the end of the day, courage is about learning to listen to our hearts and knowing the actions to take that are in line with our own moral compass and the direction in which we want to lead our lives.

School leadership, without a moral compass, is soul less leadership and leads to the creation of unfeeling and rigid institutions and individuals.

6. Recognise that you are human

As a School Leader, it can sometimes be so easy to adopt the clock of the ‘super head’, resist help even when you may need it and to fool yourself into believing that you are impervious to “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”.

Learn to take the cloak off and in doing so discover that in finding the courage to admit to your vulnerabilities and weaknesses, there you will also find your strength.

You do not need to be in fear of your vulnerabilities. You do not need to live life as a lesser version of yourself, for fear of what others might think or say, if they really saw you.

Yes, the current education landscape, can at times feel harsh, brutal and a very unsafe place to show up as our True selves, but it is necessary. Our schools, our young people need to be led by leaders who understand, as in the words of American author Brene Brown, ‘You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.’

I know that this is hard. One of the hardest things for me as a Head teacher was finding the courage to ask for the help that I needed.

What I needed back then was someone impartial who really understood the challenges I was experiencing. I needed someone with whom I could “drop the leadership mask” and talk openly and honestly about the issues, questions, doubts and feelings I was having in my role.

And it is the same today. If our leaders are to sustain consistently high levels of effectiveness amidst the growing complexity of the role, this form of support is not just helpful – it’s vital.

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 School Leaders remain woefully under-supported and as a result, many are left without anyone to turn to when they are in need of support, clarity, guidance or even just some encouragement to keep going.

That’s why I am now offering free “Coaching for The Soul” support calls to ensure that no School Leader finds themselves in the same situation as I was in as a Head.

These calls provide a safe, confidential space for School Leaders to:
– Talk through the challenges they are currently facing
– Get support in locating next steps and solutions to help overcome problems
– Reflect on recent events and the impact they are having
– Gain clarity around how best to move forward

Book Your Call

Places are limited – so if you are determined to take charge of your own well-being, book today to avoid disappointment.


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