School leadership, whether you’re just starting out or even after many years in the role, can feel at times like you’re in the middle of a hurricane. You get so many things being thrown at you, new and old, and without a strong foundation of self-belief, that voice in your head can start to whisper…
“I’m terrible at this job. The old Head was so much better than me. Any day now they’re going to find me out.”
It’s enough to paralyse you! If you don’t actively work on trusting in your own abilities and eliminating self-doubt, it will have a huge impact on how you occupy your role — and it will rob you of the confidence you need to lead. So what can you do?
1. Look backwards.
It can sometimes feel impossible to keep a handle on the present, much less look at your past. But revisiting old victories can help you remember how you got to where you are now. So look back at your career to date and how you’ve moved through it. What were the defining moments, the times when you had to show courage and take risks?
What can you learn from these moments; when did you show courage, resilience and optimism? Remember to consider these questions both in the context of your current role and in your life outside of it. You’re a person in a role, not the role itself, and you can often learn a lot about yourself by reflecting on how you show up both in and outside of the school leadership role.
2. Look around you.
Similarly, look to the people around you to reflect on how they see you as a leader. What qualities do you have that draw people to you; what feedback have people working under you given you? How about the people who hired you? They saw potential in you, and that potential is still there, even if at times, when the stress levels are high, you feel as though you have lost something of yourself.
Tests can also be a great resource for understanding your potential and yourself as a leader. If you haven’t already, consider taking some psychometric tests to get a sense of yourself and your leadership style. Looking at these objective measurements can be a great antidote to self-doubt.
3. Look inside
Most importantly, you’ve got to learn to look inside yourself and listen to your intuition. So many Heads get so caught up in rushing around that they never pay attention to their gut instinct — but as I can tell you from experience, ignore it at your peril!
If tuning into your intuition sounds a bit airy fairy to you, then think of the most naturally inspiring school leaders you know. The ones who just seems to know what to do. They are calm and collected under pressure and posses an inner knowing an inner wisdom.
Their strength comes not from their status as Head teacher, but from their own inner moral compass. They are the ones who have learnt to trust their own inner voice. They’re the ones that know how to listen to their intuition, so if you want to develop those characteristics in yourself, you need to learn to do so too.
It’s as simple as taking time to breathe. When something comes up that you’re not sure about, stop, don’t react. Take five minutes just to sit with it and breathe. Ask yourself, “What should I do?” and wait for the answer, and trust your voice when it comes!
If you have become used to listening to the voice of others over and above your own, it may take a little while to discover what your own true voice sounds like but stick with it. It will be worth it, when you discover the freedom and self confidence that arises from being able to dance to your own tune and not someone else’s.
Believe me, I know it’s hard. It can seem like a Herculean task when you are at your lowest ebb. But facing your self doubt and cultivating your own inner practice, is necessary for growth — and it’s how you become that highest, most confident version of yourself. And it is how you learn to serve your staff and your school to the best of your abilities.
Above all, it’s important to remember that You don’t have to do this alone…
Becoming a Head teacher invariably means that whatever the problem, people trust and believe that you can fix it!
Very often it can feel as though you are carrying the full weight of everyone’s expectations on your shoulders. No matter how diverse their expectations might be, from parents to politicians, you are expected to shoulder everything.
On top of this, you have a myriad of responsibilities, that require you to demonstrate additional expertise as a social worker, child psychiatrist, politician and community worker, all within the space of a day – even though you’ve never been trained in these areas.
In light of this, it’s understandable why many Headteachers struggle with feelings of self-doubt. It also makes me believe that it’s vital that our leaders are properly supported; strategically, operationally and emotionally to ensure they can keep going.
Social workers have supervision to help them process their toughest cases, and corporate executives have space for “lessons learned” and continuous improvement between projects.
However, in spite of the fact that the business world has now embraced the benefits of such support for leadership development, few in our education system have been afforded this.
That’s why I’m now offering completely free Coaching calls to give leaders a chance to experience first-hand the benefits of coaching and the role it could play in supporting both their well-being and their personal performance.
The calls provide a confidential, safe, non–judgemental space to spend 30 minutes exploring ways to:
– Achieve a greater sense of clarity about your direction as a school leader
– Gain a clearer perspective on any challenges that you may be facing
– Identify positive steps for moving forward
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!