“In solitude one is not alone; once is present to oneself”
One of the things that I love to do at the end of a week, is to find a quiet place; switch off from the outside world and look inward. Pressing the pause button at regular intervals has become a deliberate and conscious act for me. It is how I regain my equilibrium.
It is how I build my own levels of resilience. It is how I become present to myself and attentive to the life lessons that have unfolded for me during the course of a week.
Many resilient school leaders have a similar ritual or practice in place. They know that time alone, or indeed a time alone with another, that facilitates a sense of being present to one self helps them to do three key things:
1. Deepen their self–understanding: They know that a better understanding of themselves, will also help to foster a richer and deeper understanding of others.
2. Develop emotional resources: They recognise that their emotional resources ebb and flow in relation to the demands of the role and that it is necessary to find ways to replenish.
3. Sustain a sense of vocation and purpose: They know without a process that connects them back to their ‘Why” it can become all too easy to get caught up in the detritus and trauma of school life.
These resilient school leaders have come to recognise as the author Parker J Palmer often says:
“The primary challenge is to help people develop a set of practices that keep their dreams whole, while cultivating an awareness of current reality around them.”
Quite simply … they have come to recognise the importance of reflection; as a deliberate and necessary tool for bringing a level of depth and perspective to both personal and professional development.
Reflections adds Depth and Meaning
Reflection also helps bring deeper meaning and understanding into the lives of school leaders. As most of us know, much of a school leader’s every-day life is spent trying to make sense of a range of difficult circumstances, for which many are ultimately held responsible for resolving.
Sadly, however, all too often, the system robs them of any real opportunity to find meaning in times of stress or difficulty. Obsessed as the system is, with data and statistical measures, it has created a vacuous process for measuring success. Not realising that the perceived gap in pupil progress, teacher numbers etc will not be filled through yet another system change or curriculum initiative.
The gap that needs to be filled is the gaping wound in the vocational heartlands of our nation’s teachers and school leaders. Bring a greater sense of love, joy, humanity back into the profession, show pupils, teachers and school leaders that it is who they are on the inside that matters, as opposed to external appearances and school league tables and then things might begin to change.
However, until such times, it is incumbent for school leaders to develop a deliberate practice. A deliberate practice which is concerned with the ‘cultivation of self’. Such a practice which will ultimately lead to:
– A deeper understanding and awareness of the personal journey that all school leaders undertake and… it is always, always easier to take this journey consciously as opposed to feeling one is at the mercy of both personal and professional malevolent forces
– Greater levels of wisdom and maturity: Individuals finding that in the slowing down they have greater capacity for by-passing the rational mind (which always thinks it knows best!) and accessing much deeper levels of intuitive wisdom and guidance. We need only to look at the growing data and research from the field of Neuroscience to know that this is the case. When our beta waves slow down and we literally start to think straight (as our brain patterns change) we change too .. for the better!
– An increased ability to respond to the changing needs of the person in role. Such a deliberate practice can then be seen as a generative process, bringing new insight, building confidence and building not just emotional resilience, but mental, physical and vocational resilience as well!
When we take time out, when we invest in ourselves, we are allowing ourselves to truly appreciate time as gift and when we do so, it is not just ourselves who benefit, those ‘whose lives we touch’ benefit also.
A Chance to Reflect
One of the most essential aspects of sustainable leadership is having regular opportunities to reflect on one’s leadership, re-energise, re-connect with what drives them, and above all, focus on how they are going about to achieve their vision.
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…