The 3 Habits of Resilient School Leaders


“In solitude one is not alone; once is present to oneself”

James Hollis

One of the things that I love to do at the end of a week, is to find a quiet place; switch off from the outside world and look inward. Pressing the pause button at regular intervals has become a deliberate and conscious act for me. It is how I regain my equilibrium.
It is how I build my own levels of resilience. It is how I become present to myself and attentive to the life lessons that have unfolded for me during the course of a week.
Many resilient School Leaders have a similar ritual or practice in place. They know that time alone, or indeed a time alone with another, that facilitates a sense of being present to one self helps them to do three key things:
1. Deepen their self–understanding: They know that a better understanding of themselves, will also help to foster a richer and deeper understanding of others.
2. Develop emotional resources: They recognise that their emotional resources ebb and flow in relation to the demands of the role and that it is necessary to find ways to replenish.
3. Sustain a sense of vocation and purpose: They know without a process that connects them back to their ‘Why” it can become all too easy to get caught up in the detritus and trauma of school life.
These resilient School Leaders have come to recognise as the author Parker J Palmer often says:

“The primary challenge is to help people develop a set of practices that keep their dreams whole, while cultivating an awareness of current reality around them.”

Quite simply … they have come to recognise the importance of reflection; as a deliberate and necessary tool for bringing a level of depth and perspective to both personal and professional development.

Reflections adds Depth and Meaning

Reflection also helps bring deeper meaning and understanding into the lives of School Leaders. As most of us know, much of a school leader’s every-day life is spent trying to make sense of a range of difficult circumstances, for which many are ultimately held responsible for resolving.
Sadly, however, all too often, the system robs them of any real opportunity to find meaning in times of stress or difficulty. Obsessed as the system is, with data and statistical measures, it has created a vacuous process for measuring success. Not realising that the perceived gap in pupil progress, teacher numbers etc will not be filled through yet another system change or curriculum initiative.
The gap that needs to be filled is the gaping wound in the vocational heartlands of our nation’s teachers and School Leaders. Bring a greater sense of love, joy, humanity back into the profession, show pupils, teachers and School Leaders that it is who they are on the inside that matters, as opposed to external appearances and school league tables and then things might begin to change.
However, until such times, it is incumbent for School Leaders to develop a deliberate practice. A deliberate practice which is concerned with the ‘cultivation of self’. Such a practice which will ultimately lead to:
– A deeper understanding and awareness of the personal journey that all School Leaders undertake and… it is always, always easier to take this journey consciously as opposed to feeling one is at the mercy of both personal and professional malevolent forces
– Greater levels of wisdom and maturity: Individuals finding that in the slowing down they have greater capacity for by-passing the rational mind (which always thinks it knows best!) and accessing much deeper levels of intuitive wisdom and guidance. We need only to look at the growing data and research from the field of Neuroscience to know that this is the case. When our beta waves slow down and we literally start to think straight (as our brain patterns change) we change too .. for the better!
– An increased ability to respond to the changing needs of the person in role. Such a deliberate practice can then be seen as a generative process, bringing new insight, building confidence and building not just emotional resilience, but mental, physical and vocational resilience as well!
When we take time out, when we invest in ourselves, we are allowing ourselves to truly appreciate time as gift and when we do so, it is not just ourselves who benefit, those ‘whose lives we touch’ benefit also.

Without a doubt the pandemic brought many unexpected challenges for us all. However, one of the silver linings of the past two years has been a heightened awareness of what matters most for all of us. We learnt:

– The value of community

– The need to stay connected

– The importance of being supported

We also learnt that deeper connections matter, none of us can survive alone and to thrive and overcome the challenges of leadership life we need real, deep, and meaningful connections with others.

That’s why we have launched our new “Heads Together”, a new School Leadership community, designed to connect like-minded school-leaders and to provide a watering hole for inspiration, encouragement and support.

Our “Heads Together” Community is designed to provide School Leaders with:

– A vital network of support to help individuals manage the emotional strains and stresses of the role

– Collaborative forums for thoughtful exploration around timely and important leadership themes

– Inspiration and encouragement throughout the year to help keep leaders’ passion and purpose alive

If you’d like to find out more about the community, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…

Learn more



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