“Stories are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories individuals and nations live by and tell themselves, and you change the individuals and nations.”
Stories are not just for the young. They are for all of us. Stories when told well, by-pass the defences and barriers of the rational mind and connect with something deeper that resides within us all. It is my belief that, that something deeper, that essence of what connects us all, that shared humanity has been weakened by current narratives of competition, isolation, scarcity and lack within our education system today. To change the corrosive effect of this current narrative and related stories, we need to encourage more school leaders to share different stories.
We need more school leaders to share their unique stories of:
– Hope and
Stories that have less to do with the ‘doing’ of the role and more to do with the ‘being’.
We need more school leaders who are prepared to stand out from the crowd. We need school Leaders who are prepared to show how high expectations can sit equally alongside, humility, compassion and hope.
We need more school leaders who are prepared to tell stories of how they have gone against the grain and re-written for themselves the notion of what it means to be a leader. Leaders who have said, “No, I will no-longer be defined by my persona, but by the values that I hold dear.”
Equally, we need more school leaders who are willing to talk about the vulnerability that all leaders share. Leaders who are prepared to show how facing up to fears, self-doubt and emotional exposure, have not made them weak, but instead have made them stronger.
Just imagine …
If as a school leader you were supported to tell your own unique story, in such a way that you could:
– Change key elements of the story that you are currently living by?
– Find a new level of authenticity within your own voice that kept you connected to your own sense of agency and purpose
– Find a depth of wisdom and knowing within your own story, that could not only change your schools’ narrative but also the predominant narrative within our education system today?
We need to imagine and we need to believe! We need to believe because as the author Ben Okri says at the top of this blog, “Change the stories individuals and nations live by and tell themselves, and you change the individuals and nations.”
And it is time to change the stories that many of our school leaders are ‘forced’ to live by. Neither children nor adults can flourish where there is an absence of compassion, hope and meaning. Environments that lack these qualities have a detrimental impact on the emotional and psychological state of individuals and consequently on the story that they tell themselves.
The late Carl Rogers said, “There is in every organism, at whatever level, an underlying flow of movement toward constructive fulfilment of its inherent possibilities.”
Yet within our education system today, this ‘underlying flow’ is often restricted and at times thwarted because the surrounding conditions that neither nurture or support ‘fulfilment of inherent possibilities’
Telling stories, allowing new voices to be heard, bringing fresh and diverse perspectives to the school leadership agenda, can help to:
– Strengthen the profession from within
– Bring a greater level of humanity back into the profession
– Keep school leaders in the profession for the long haul
– Ensure that leaders are able to achieve greater levels of congruity between their values and current realities
– Sustain leaders’ sense of agency, vocation and purpose
Which simply, is why we need more school leaders to share their stories!
I truly believe that if we are to overcome the often overwhelming feelings of isolation that many school leaders feel, then we need to get better at sharing ‘true’ stories about the cost of school leadership. As when we do so, it helps to remind us that we are not alone and others may have shared similar experiences to our own.
The best way we can begin to do this is when we have a listening ear, someone who we can confide in and talk openly and honestly about the challenges of your role.
One of the hardest things for me as a Headteacher was finding someone to speak to like this. What I needed back then was someone impartial who really understood the challenges I was experiencing, with whom I could “drop the leadership mask” and talk openly and honestly about the issues, questions, doubts and feelings I was having in my role.
If our leaders are to sustain consistently high levels of effectiveness and develop as leaders amidst the growing emotional cost of leading, the complexity of the role and heightened pressure of being a school leader, this form of support is not just helpful – it’s vital.
Social workers have supervision to help them process their toughest cases, and corporate executives have space for “lessons learned” and continuous improvement between projects.
Yet school leaders remain endemically under-supported and, as a result, many leaders are left without anyone to turn to when they are in need of support, clarity, guidance or even just some encouragement to keep going.
That’s why I am now offering free “Coaching for The Soul” support calls for school leaders to ensure that no School Leader finds themselves in the same situation as I was as a School Leader.
– Talk through the challenges you’re currently facing in your role
– Get support in locating next steps and solutions to help you overcome the issues you’re experiencing
– Reflect on recent events and the impact they have had on you as a leader and as a person.
– Gain clarity in your thoughts and your current situation
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!