3 Things every Headteacher must Learn

I have witnessed many a Headteacher brim with pride on appointment to their post; whether it be a first headship, second or third, there is always a sense of something great having been achieved.
This pride often stems from an acknowledgment of the personal journey many have travelled to arrive at that place. It also stems from a hope and optimism about what they can achieve for the children and young people they have chosen to serve.
Something that I have also witnessed is how ill-prepared our system is for properly equipping Heads, with the skills and knowledge for understanding the personal growth process that accompanies Headship. Scant attention is given to the psychological and emotional terrain that all will have to cross in order to successfully navigate the many challenges of the role.
Lessons which should be shared with all Headteachers are often ignored and many Heads are left none the wiser, until crisis hits and they are forced by circumstance to ask;

“What else do I need to learn, so that I can engage with this role in a way that sustains my sense of purpose and who I am as a person?”

Through coaching Headteachers, I have identified three key lessons that are essential for Heads searching to find an answer to this question…

1. Headship cannot be survived by staying on the surface of things

My observation is that Headship takes you to places inside yourself that you have never been to before. Heads have to get used to experiencing Headship from the inside out; instead of what most are commonly used to and experiencing Headship from the outside in.
When the role of Headship is occupied with one’s gaze permanently fixed on the external, there is a tendency to adopt habits (as well-meaning as they might be) that have too narrow a focus. There is a pre-occupation with paying attention to anything that helps you to look good on the outside. This is understandable, it’s the observable aspects of your role, that cause others to make judgements as to how well they perceive you to be doing. But this is not how to survive and stay healthy and well in Headship.
To stay healthy and well in Headship you have to be prepared to go beyond the surface of things. You have to be prepared to look deep within yourself and connect with the core of who you are; what you believe, what you value, what you feel and what you think. Then bring the multiplicity of all these aspects into how you lead yourself and others.

2. Headship is a journey of personal growth

When individuals take on the headship role, they are often bombarded with numerous CPD courses to facilitate their professional growth. Rarely do CPD courses address the person in this role. It’s almost as if attention to the needs of the person have to be addressed outside of the post, but this is a nonsense. And wise Heads recognise it as such.
Wise Heads understand that their personal growth is a parallel process that is inextricably linked to their own professional journey. In all reality you cannot have one without the other.
When you suppress or deny the personal, you also negate what it means to be human. Leadership becomes functional and can lead to a distancing in the relationship that an individual has with themselves. When Heads understand this, they do all that they can to invest in their personal development, knowing that the return will be just as great for others as it is for themselves.

3. Reflection is a practise to be mastered

Time and time again the lesson that ‘Reflection is a practice that has to be mastered’ is something that Heads I have worked with have shared with me. Many have come to the realisation that reflection has enabled them to see more clearly. It has helped them to discern the lessons within the challenges and triumphs of headship. It has also helped them to be less reactive and to exhibit greater self-awareness and self-management.
Developing a practice of reflection has meant that they have been able to find their own answers to the perennial challenges of leadership. It has also meant that they have found strength, solace and courage through turning their energy inwards and learning to give unconditionally to themselves.

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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