You read the books, studied the application criteria, and so impressed the interview panel with your strong responses that you’ve been appointed Head Teacher…
If you’re anything like most people, you were convinced that you’re going into this job with open eyes, prepared to face the challenges of school leadership … until you stepped foot into the school on that first day and get blindsided.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me about these hidden challenges before I took up the post?”
I hear this again and again from my clients — while they are amazingly prepared ‘on paper’ for raising and maintaining school standards, challenging under-performance, and guiding the school through its next OFSTED visit, Headship in practice is an entirely different matter.
What leadership programmes, and even other Heads won’t tell you is:
School development is intrinsically tied to emotional development — yours and that of others.
Emotional intelligence only has meaning when you’re in relationships with others, and even more so when these relationships test your emotions.
School leadership is a journey on which each and every day you have to learn how to respond consciously to the stresses of your role instead of simply reacting and putting out fires.
There are going to be times when you’ll feel like a stranger to yourself as you try to find new frames of reference for handling new circumstances, relationships, and challenges.
Admitting your own vulnerabilities when faced with the challenges of school leadership isn’t a form of weakness — it’s what will get you through.
What’s more, if you don’t get the support you need in the role (and most Heads don’t), you’ll end up overwhelmed with the enormity of your role and all that you have to do; emotionally spent from being everything to everyone day after day; and with the growing sense that there must, must be a healthier way to cope with the demands of your job.
So how do you combat these hidden challenges?
1. Make a promise to yourself to lead consciously, particularly when you’re faced with a difficult challenge.
Too often, school Heads find themselves leading on automatic pilot, following old habits and modes of thinking, which trigger automated and unconscious responses. But when things get hard, you need to be able to have a reasoned, rational response — and that can only happen when you press pause and allow yourself to respond from a place of greater alignment and authenticity.
2. Start working on understanding how your thoughts impact your emotions and behaviours.
Our thoughts create our reality, but we seldom realise it. Too caught up in the busyness of life and Headship, you may have little time to realise that the thought you woke up with this morning impacted your behaviours and emotions throughout the day. If you can master your mind and your thought processes, you’ll experience greater mental clarity, self-awareness, and a belief in your ability to take control of your circumstances.
3. Take care of your physical health.
It’s easy to live in your head, but there’s no getting away from your body, so you need to consciously take care of it. This is closely tied to your emotional health too, since emotions that aren’t processed get stored in the body. So have a think: do you always have a headache, tension in your shoulders, a pain in your chest? It may be that your body is saying to you “Listen to me and find someone to help you, so that all this pain can stop!”
Meeting the Needs of Others….
Working as a coach with school leaders I’ve witnessed first-hand the emotional cost for school leaders when their emotional needs are not properly met; anxiety, self-doubt, poor decision making and a diminished sense of personal and professional fulfilment.
This can’t continue. Active steps must be taken. Our profession needs to change and show that it knows how to best support our school leaders. So that they can not only survive, but also thrive in their attempts to deliver the best outcomes for our children.
Meanwhile, for their part, our leaders must be supported to take care of themselves!
One of the key elements of this is learning to ask for help, and realising that this is an act of courage, as much as it is an essential act of kindness and compassion towards oneself.
Whatever our goals, whatever our ambitions, we need help to fulfil them. So that when the going gets tough, as it always does, we don’t fall down and remain on the ground, but are supported, so that we can get back up again and, with renewed focus and energy, carry on towards our dream.
So if you want to take charge of your well-being and be supported to best meet the needs of those in your care, I am now offering free “Coaching for The Soul” calls for school leaders to enable you to do just this.
This call will provide you with a confidential, safe, non–judgemental space to spend 30 minutes discussing how you can:
– 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’re keen for support and guidance in your current situation, please do book now!