Time is something that we all value. Yet in the life of a school leader, as precious as it is, you seem to have very little of it. Or to put it another way, you appear to have a lot of time to give to other people, but very little to be able to give back to yourself!
With the holiday break just around the corner, I want to encourage you to take some time out for yourself and to use that time to think deeply on the qualities that you wish to further develop in yourself as a leader.
If challenges have come your way this term, as they undoubtedly will have done, take some time to be courageous and to face whatever fears and worries may have arisen. Author Simon Walker argues that when leaders do so, they become ‘undefended’.
They are able to let down their defence mechanisms and arrive at a place of deep strength and personal understanding. He argues that undefended leaders are individuals who have learnt what it takes to face their own fears, doubts and uncertainties. They are individuals who have learnt the truth that:
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
Triumph over fear, requires support, personal validation and time to help foster a common understanding of the human vulnerabilities that we all share.
He argues that individuals who give themselves time to develop a deeper understanding of their life and leadership circumstances, learn to embrace the challenge of leadership alongside the pursuit of the humanitarian goals of the ‘undefended leader.’
A concept illustrated in the diagram below, adapted from Walker’s Goals of Undefended Leaders.
Time is a gift
Any worthwhile learning from the past and subsequent transformation does not happen overnight. A teacher does not become a successful, confident school leader overnight. It is a journey. It is a process, one that is very often uncomfortable and sometimes downright ugly on the inside.
Scientists tell us that if we were to open a chrysalis during a critical stage of the caterpillar’s transformation, we would be shocked by what we would see. We would not see an embryonic butterfly or something that even resembled any type of insect life form: what we would find would be a liquidised, mixed up, vulnerable, unrecognisable mess. We would see caterpillar soup!
To the outside world, the cocoon gives the impression of wholeness, hiding the truth of what is actually occurring on the inside. And we have all done it! Kept up appearances, when on the inside everything was a complete and utter mixed-up mess!
Fortunately for us, nature does not look upon caterpillar soup as a culinary mistake and dismiss it as a recipe for failure. Nature knows that what the soup needs is patience and time. Without patience and time, neither we nor our children would ever know the beauty of butterflies.
If you are a school leader, the one thing that you never seem to have enough of is time. Everything is urgent, and everything needs to have been done yesterday. But if you are to both survive and thrive in your role, then time is a gift that you need to learn to be able to give to yourself and now with this holiday break coming up, there may be no better time for you to give this gift to yourself.
Just as nature affords time to the change process, school leaders need time to develop a deeper understanding of their own leadership journey and any personal changes that have occurred along the way.
Time enables you to:
– Stop, pause and reflect
– Refill your emotional, mental and spiritual reservoirs
– Embrace and develop new mechanisms for coping with the challenges of school leadership
– Strengthen your inner foundations
– Re-align yourself with all things, both personal and professional, that are of the greatest importance to you.
So, with this upcoming break, why not carve out some time for you? Find a place where you will be undisturbed. Take a pen and paper and reflect on the key incidences that have arisen for you this term. The questions below can be used as a guide to help scaffold your thinking and identify any key learning points for yourself.
1. How did you feel at the start of this half term?
2. How are you feeling now?
3. What incidents have impacted on your feelings?
4. What are your feelings telling you?
5. What have been the key learning points for you this half term about yourself as a leader?
6. How will these key learning points shape how you ‘show up’ as a leader next half term?
And … if you find yourself thinking, “Can I really afford to invest time in myself during this break” just reflect on the words of American author and Management Consultant, Margaret J. Wheatly:
“Time for reflection… is for me a lifesaver. It is not just a nice thing to do if you have the time. It is the only way you can survive”
Investing some time in yourself
If you feel you’d benefit from some time out for yourself, to reflect on the term so far, explore how you’re feeling or simply talk through what you’re facing, then I’m now offering a FREE Coaching calls for all school leaders to allow you to do just this.
These 30 minute confidential and “no strings attached” calls are designed to allow you the time and space to connect back with what drives you as a leader, consider the ways in which you have been leading and find solutions to challenges you’re experiencing.
In the last 12 months, I’ve seen first-hand the wonderful impact that these calls can have on leaders and how they have the power to help Heads…
– Find new inspiration to keep going towards their vision
– Achieve a greater sense of clarity in their situation
– Identify meaningful next steps to move themselves and their school forward
Unfortunately, I don’t have unlimited time to offer these calls – so if you are keen for support and guidance in your situation, please do book now!