The weight of school leadership is not an easy load to bear. It takes a pair of broad shoulders to consistently carry the weight of expectation that is placed upon Heads and their roles.
All too often, the weight of responsibility is made that much heavier by the feelings of guilt that many Heads carry around with them. Guilt that is kept hidden from others but is not secret to the bearer.
For many a School Leader guilt is insidious and more often than not undermines your efforts to do the right thing. You know as a Head, doing the right thing is frequently the most difficult thing to do; particularly when decisions made are contrary to what ‘others’ believe is required.
Guilt knows this and rather than support your decisions, guilt works in tandem with your inner critic to tell you that you have got it wrong. That it is you that is out of step and that you are to blame for the emotional responses and behaviours of others.
In addition, because guilt has an intimate relationship with the psyche of School Leaders, it has played a key role in thwarting many School Leaders’ attempts to take care of themselves. If you are a School Leader, guilt tells you that you are in some way mistaken if you consider putting your needs ahead of the children or staff in your school.
It tells you, even when you are at breaking point, that you can’t take your foot off the peddle. Guilt just pushes you harder and harder and has little regard for the emotional cost of doing so.
If this resonates, it is essential that guilt stops running the show and you put your-self back in the driving seat. Ask yourself what role has guilt played in preventing you from taking care of yourself?
Has guilt stopped you from…
1. Saying ‘No” to others?
2. Investing more time with family and friends?
3. Spending time on yourself?
If the answer to any of these is yes, then as a Head it is essential that you should stop feeling guilty about them.
Why? Because …
1. When you say “No” to others, you become more discerning of how you use your time and energy. You realise that just because you are the School Leader, you cannot and you must not do everything! You realise that when you say, “No” you also release capacity for you to invest your time and energy in those tasks, conversations and relationships that truly deserve your attention
2. When you spend more time with family and friends, you refill your wells. You develop a greater sense of harmony between your personal and professional lives. Work does not become all-consuming. Life and leadership take on a different hue and you develop a greater sense of well-being.
3. When you spend time on yourself, you develop a greater understanding of who you are. You learn how to bring a greater degree of alignment between your internal and external worlds. As a result, you grow in authenticity as a leader. Leadership becomes less burdensome as you discover ways in which to make the weight of school leadership that much easier to bear.
To end with the words of Parker J Palmer, who I have often quoted in my blogs,
“Self-care is never a selfish act. It is simply good stewardship of the only gift that I have, the gift that I was put on earth to offer others. Any time we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch”
So the next time, guilt pipes up and tries to stop you from taking time out for yourself, just remember, it is not selfish to do so, it is ‘simply good stewardship of the only gift that you have.’
Transforming the Reality of School Leadership
For many, School leadership has become a 60+ hour job, one that can consume their whole life, at the expense of their personal lives & their well-being.
It is an issue that has become more and more pressing in our profession, with growing numbers of School leaders struggling with burn-out or other stress-related issues. As a result, we’ve seen more and more great Heads being signed off or leaving the profession and this trend will continue, unless something is done.
That’s why in October 2020, we will once again host Headteachers & School Leaders from across the country for our very special “Education for the Soul” conference.
This conference will feature a new selection of expert speakers and workshop hosts, who will be sharing their insights into how school leaders can look after their own well-being, get the most out of those they lead and deliver the best outcomes for their pupils.
The conference will aim to build on the outcomes of our previous “Education for the Soul” conferences and seek to explore how school leaders and teachers can learn to lead with integrity, depth and purpose.
As part of this, we will look into how individuals can stay connected to their “why” and their deepest values. Above all, “Education for the Soul” 2020 will aim to help school leaders and teachers:
– Foster a deep sense of vocation and purpose amongst all staff
– Increase their understanding of the relationship between school development and personal development
– Keep hope, joy passion, commitment and creativity at the heart of their school and relationships with self and others