Leading from the Soul: Integrating Authenticity into School Leadership

The Deeper Enquiry in Coaching

Very often, when I am coaching individuals, underneath the initial enquiries and questions they might bring to the session, a much deeper enquiry gradually begins to surface. Once individuals have been given enough space to clear away the debris of day-to-day and immediate concerns, they visibly settle into a much deeper, reflective inner space. It is from this place that, sometimes tentatively, the deeper enquiry arises. Although often couched in different terms, such as, “How can I be vulnerable?” “I am afraid my vulnerability will be mistaken for weakness,” “I want to be myself, but just don’t know how to be,” or “It’s a struggle to be the person I want to be because my old self keeps trying to run the show,” the core of these statements is a quest to lead from a soulful place. Essentially, individuals are asking, “How can I lead as my true, authentic self?”

The Challenge of Authentic Leadership

Indeed, it is not a particularly easy question to answer. Personally, as a woman of colour, it is a question that I reflect on almost daily. We live in a world that does not readily accept the authentic self. Instead, it takes the adapted self and leads us to believe that this self, created to feel accepted and to have a sense of belonging, is our true authentic self. But it is not. It is simply the self we crafted in our formative years as a survival mechanism; it is a socially conditioned self.

Being an authentic leader involves recognising how social conditioning has impacted how we show up in life and then choosing an intentional path to reclaiming ourselves.

The Unique Struggle of School Leaders

As a school leader, this can often feel like a near-impossible task. As the Quaker author and social activist Parker Palmer says, those in positions of power are more often than not rewarded for behaviours damaging to the soul as opposed to those that are truly life-giving. If we take a step back from our sector for a moment, we know this to be true. The attrition rates in our sector are shockingly high. This is deeply worrying for a profession that many consider a vocation—a calling of the soul.

It stands to reason that if an individual is called to teach or lead within education yet finds themselves in an environment in which their soul’s needs are not met, there will come a time when their soul will ‘rebel.’ One way or another, if an individual is not given the time and space to attend to their soul and lead from a more authentic place, they will leave. I believe this is part of the reason why attrition rates across the profession remain so high.

The Path Forward for Education

Until the profession as a whole develops a greater maturity and wisdom about how to meet the vocational needs of our educators and school leaders, society will continue to bear the brunt of a decreased teaching workforce.

Nevertheless, if you find yourself reading this blog, I have to believe that you are one of the school leaders who has chosen to stay in the profession and, what’s more, are actively seeking ways to lead from a place of deep, inner, soul-led authenticity.

Three Essential Steps for Leading with Authenticity

If indeed, that is the case, here are three essential steps that you can take to remain grounded in the truth of who you really are and lead from a place of deep authenticity:

1. Embrace Vulnerability

Allow yourself to be open and honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Vulnerability fosters trust and deepens connections with those you are in a relationship with (both in and outside of school).

Here are a few questions for you to ponder on:

  • When did you last allow yourself to be vulnerable in a professional setting?
  • How did it impact your relationship with others?
  • What fears do you have about being vulnerable, and how can you address them?

2. Reflect Regularly

Set aside time for regular reflection to connect with your inner self. This practice will help you stay aligned with your values and intentions, enabling you to lead with integrity.

Consider these questions:

  • How often do you make time for self-reflection?
  • What practices or activities help you to connect with your inner self?
  • In what ways has reflection enabled you to stay true to your authentic self in your leadership role?

3. Seek Support

Build a network, or multiple networks, where you can gain guidance, encouragement, and access safe spaces to explore and develop your authentic leadership style.

What might your responses to these final set of questions reveal to you? Ask yourself:

  • Who are the people in my life who support my journey toward authentic leadership?
  • How can I actively seek out and engage with individuals/groups that align with my values?
  • What kind of support do I need most to stay grounded and authentic in my leadership?

By embracing vulnerability, reflecting regularly, and seeking support, I honestly believe, despite the consistent challenges of school leadership, that it is possible to remain grounded in the truth of who you really are and lead from a place of deep authenticity.

Leading from the Soul: What More Can You Do?

At Integrity Coaching, we believe that one way to foster a greater ability to lead from the soul centres around CPD that understands that:

“A teacher’s capacity to teach well is linked to a set of affable qualities… that often become characterised as heart, passion, or connectedness. These intricate qualities emerge from a teacher’s life’s inner core or landscape.”

Consequently, we advocate for a paradigm shift in professional development that transcends conventional coaching approaches to delve into the depths of the soul. Our Essential Coaching Skills Programme offers a transformative journey towards reconnecting with one’s true self, equipping school leaders to authentically meet their growth needs and those of their teams.

Join the Journey

If this resonates with you, why not embark on this transformative journey with us? Our upcoming cohort commences on September 26th and 27th, offering limited spaces for those eager to delve into the soulful realms of educational leadership.

If you are interested, click here to register now to unlock the potential within yourself and empower those you lead to thrive.

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