“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.
Reconnect with your vision, passion and purpose
In order to sustain high levels of personal performance, confidence and motivation (particularly amidst the challenges of School Leadership), I believe our leaders need chance to explore the questions that are of real importance to them as a person and in their roles.
They need chance to step back from the daily grind of the role and reflect on the leader they want to be, what inspires and drives them as a leader and what they need to do to keep their hope alive.
That’s why we offer our “Developing Headspace” Programme, consisting of a 2 Day “Transforming Leadership” Residential in Suffolk, Group Nurture Meals, coaching calls and a half day “Review and a Reflect” session, all designed to support and enhance Headteachers’ capacity for authentic, inspiring and sustainable leadership.
The programme hopes to offer a space for reflection and active, informed listening, for Heads to renew perspective, think strategically, build lasting networks of support and refresh the vitality of their core purpose.
Spread across three school terms, the programme includes a range of activities designed to provide on-going care, support and encouragement for Heads across the school year.
Above all, it is our aim to ensure that the programme supports school leaders in 5 key areas…
Vision: Central to all aspects of the programme are processes and ways of working individually and collectively that keep individuals anchored to their vision.
Values: Heads are supported to identify ways of being that increase alignment with themselves and their key values.
Resilience: As Heads develop a deeper understanding of how they respond to the stresses of the role, individuals are supported to develop greater degrees of emotional, psychological and vocational resilience.
A Values Network: The programme design facilitates the development of new supportive and collaborative relationships with like-minded peers.
Confidence: As individuals experience a growth in self-awareness and appreciation of their core strengths, they also experience a growth in personal conviction and increased confidence in their own abilities.
If you’d like to find out more about the programme, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…