Learning to Navigate Education’s Changing Landscape: How School Leaders Can Avoid 3 Common Mistakes

Becoming a school leader in today’s education world can be a daunting task, requiring a deep understanding of the evolving demands of the role. It can be akin to learning to walk again, as you must navigate the psychological adjustments necessary for success. Just as your loved ones supported you when you were learning to walk as a child, you also need support to confidently learn how to step into the role and make it your own.

Unfortunately, many school leaders are unaware of this crucial fact, leading to avoidable mistakes that can hinder the realisation of their goals. In this blog, we explore three common mistakes made by school leaders and emphasise why, in today’s educational landscape, it is imperative to do everything possible to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Neglecting Personal Support

Embarking on the journey of a school leader can be a lonely and limiting experience. Without adequate support, progress may be slow, or worse, stunted, preventing both personal and professional growth. Every school leader starts their journey at the stage of unconscious incompetence, and it takes time, patience, understanding, and a supportive environment to reach a point of unconscious competence.

To avoid this mistake, it is crucial to seek help that nurtures both your personal and professional development. Embrace support systems that facilitate your growth, enabling you to fulfil your potential as a school leader.

Mistake #2: Ignoring Emotional Needs

Many school leaders operate from a place of inner dissonance, neglecting their fundamental emotional needs. These needs include feeling accepted, appreciated, believed in, respected, listened to, valued, and supported. Sadly, many suffer silently, leading from a position of hidden inner turmoil and self-doubt.

Just as the emotional needs of children impact their behaviour, the same holds true for adults. Our behaviours reflect the state of our inner world and the extent to which our emotional needs are met. Achieving balance in our lives relies on satisfying our emotional needs. When these needs are unfulfilled, our vulnerable selves suffer.

To avoid making this mistake, acknowledge your humanity and recognise that, like everyone else, you have feelings and emotions. Prioritise self-care and ensure your emotional needs are met, as it directly impacts your effectiveness as a school leader.

Mistake #3: Failing to Drop Defenses

We all possess defensive mechanisms that shield us from potential harm. As a school leader, it may seem like you need to defend yourself daily against various challenges. However, if left unchecked, these defensive behaviours not only distance you from others but also estrange you from yourself. You may no longer recognise the person you see in the mirror. Instead, you face a stranger daily one who wears the same shoes and clothes as you, but whose mannerisms and ways of being appear foreign.

Leading from a place of compromised authenticity and purpose is uncomfortable for many school leaders. They understand that their defensive behaviours diminish their ability to stay true to their values and hinder their capacity to lead with integrity.

To avoid this mistake, take the time to understand and embrace vulnerability. Brene Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”, is an excellent resource to start this journey.

Are You Ready to Seek Help?

Admittedly, dropping one’s defences can be challenging. As a former Headteacher, Viv understands the struggle of finding the courage to ask for the necessary help. Having someone impartial who comprehends the challenges you face, where you can drop the leadership mask and openly discuss your issues, doubts, and feelings, is invaluable.

In today’s complex educational landscape, school leaders need support to maintain consistently high levels of effectiveness. It is vital to create a space for reflection, guidance, and encouragement, just as corporate executives have continuous improvement initiatives.

That’s why we offer free “Coaching for The Soul” support calls, ensuring that no school leader finds themselves in the same predicament Viv once faced as a Headteacher. These calls provide a safe and confidential environment for school leaders to:

  • Discuss current challenges they are facing.
  • Receive support in finding solutions and next steps.
  • Reflect on recent events and their impact.
  • Gain clarity on the best way to move forward.

By embracing the lessons shared in this blog and seeking the support you deserve, you can learn to better navigate our changing educational landscape and become the leader you know yourself to be! 

Would you like to deepen your Reflections?

To help further your reflections, we have created our Headteacher Seven Steps to “Staying A Head” self-assessment. This self-assessment will guide you through key areas of well-being and self-care, highlighted in Viv Grant’s seminal book, “Staying A Head: The Stress Management Secrets of Successful School Leaders.” It will serve as a starting point for developing a personalised plan to enhance your overall capacity to respond proactively to the demands of your role.

Click here to take our self-assessment and help accelerate your journey towards enhanced self-knowledge, well-being, and success.


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