Coaching & Leadership Development
September 19, 2018

5 Tips for Reducing the Stress of Headship

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.




Taking Back Control of School Leadership


It is our belief that over the last few years, our education system has lost sight of one of its strongest and most important assets – its humanity.


Values more akin to the business world have seeped into the system with schools encouraged to see children as data, other school leaders as competitors and results as the ultimate goal of education. We have seen  too many school leaders  ‘disappear’ with many being forced out, sometimes on the back of just one disappointing set of results.


Consequently, we’ve noticed a growing culture of fear within in our education system. Increased levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability have only served to intensify this.  As have new structures and roles which have added unnecessary layers of complexity and ambiguity. Many heads now feel they are in a constant battle to prove they know what is being asked of them in this new era and prove that they are “good enough.”


To make matters worse, leaders are now expected to “do more with less” and improve their schools with depleting school budgets.  They are expected to fill the gaps that social workers and family support systems can no-longer provide (again due to budget cuts). Amidst all these challenges, it appears very little consideration has been given to the impact that these additional expectations and pressures have had upon the mental health and well-being of those who lead our schools.


Therefore, it is no surprise that so many Headteachers find themselves feeling isolated, stressed, exhausted, out of control and plagued with fear and self-doubt. Likewise, it’s also unsurprising that many good Heads are signed off due to burn-out or have decided to leave the profession. The heavy emotional cost of leading being all too great a price to bear.


That’s why we’re hosting our unique “Education for the Soul” conference on Thursday 18th October 2018 designed to help you develop a new and empowered outlook and approach for addressing  the many challenges of being a School Leader today. The conference will enable you to write new and inspired chapters for yourself, your school and those you lead.


The agenda has been especially designed to provide you a unique opportunity to:


– Challenge the damaging “narratives” in our education system that focus around competitiveness, data and scarcity – and develop a new and empowered outlook to the challenges you face

– Strengthen your confidence, remind yourself of your value as a school leader and the unique strengths and qualities you bring to the role – and how you can put these to best use in your school.

– Understand the stories that have made you the leader you are today, so that you can determine which serve you best and which you may need to be let go of in your current context.

– Re-connect back with the values that guide your leadership, your passion for education, and your purpose for being a school leader.

– Regain ownership and control of your leadership story so that you can lead in a way that is authentic, fulfilling and achieves your unique vision for your school.

We really hope you can join us for what we hope will be a very special day. If you’d like to do so, please follow the link below to learn more…


Learn More


1 Comment

  1. “We become our best selves through unselfish interaction with others”
    LOVE IT!!! It’s true. Thank you for sharing.


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