When you become a school leader, getting to grips with everything that the role is really asking of you can be hard work.
The psychological adjustments that need to be made in order for you to fully accept and succeed at what the role is asking of you can be akin to learning to walk again.
Just as, when you were a child learning to walk, you had to be supported by your loved ones to move from a place of unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence [Maslow’s Four Stages of Learning], as a school leader you have to be supported to move to this confident place of being too.
However, many school leaders are unaware of this fact and because of this, mistakes can be made which jeopardise the fulfilment of their vision.
In particular, there are three mistakes that school leaders commonly make which could be easily avoided….
Mistake # 1: Not asking for personal support
Without support, the experience for a school leader who is growing into their role is both lonely and limiting. Progress is slow and in extreme cases stunted; neither the individual nor those they lead are able to reach the level of maturity necessary for sustained personal effectiveness.
Every school leader’s journey begins, no matter how well concealed, at the point of unconscious incompetence and it is only with time, patience, understanding and a space that facilitates personal growth, that an individual can reach the point of unconscious competence.
To avoid this mistake find seek out help that supports both your personal and professional growth.
Mistake # 2: Not recognising that their emotional needs must be met
Many school leaders lead from a place of inner dissonance; basic emotional needs that all school leaders need to have met, such as feeling accepted, appreciated, believed in; respected; listened to; valued; and supported are ignored and even trampled over. Many suffer alone in silence and lead from a place of hidden inner turmoil and self doubt.
When our natural emotional needs are met healthy behaviour follows. Just observe the children in your school. It is often clear to see those for whom the basic emotional needs of love and respect are being met and those for whom the opposite is true. It is the same for us as adults.
Our behaviours betray the realities of our own inner worlds and the degree to which our own hidden emotional needs are being met. The level of balance that we feel in our lives is very much dependent on the degree to which our emotional needs are satisfied.
If our emotional needs are being fulfilled in a balanced way, most of the time we will be emotionally and mentally healthy. When they are not, it is our vulnerable self that suffers.
To avoid making this mistake simply acknowledge the fact that you are human and that you have feelings and emotions the same as everyone else!
Mistake # 3: Not knowing when to drop their defences
We all have defensive mechanisms. Often, we are barely aware of them. They are the thought processes and behaviours that protect us from being hurt. They serve to keep us safe from situations or others that we perceive (rightly or wrongly) will cause us harm.
For most school leaders it can feel as though every day you have to defend yourself against ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’.
Left unchecked, defensive behaviours can cause not only a distancing in relationships with others, but also a distancing in the relationship an individual has with themselves. They become a stranger not only to work colleagues, but to their loved ones. The person that they see reflected in the mirror is someone that they no longer recognise.
This is not a place that many school leaders feel comfortable leading from. Deep inside many know that, day by day, their defensive behaviours lessen their ability to be true to themselves and their values. Their true nature becomes compromised, as does their ability to lead with authenticity and purpose.
To avoid making this mistake take some time to learn what it means to be vulnerable. Brene Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly – How the courage to be vulnerable changes the way we live, love and lead.” is a great place to start
Are you ready to ask for help?
I know that dropping one’s defences is hard. One of the hardest things for me as a Head teacher was finding the courage to ask for the help that I needed. I needed someone impartial who really understood the challenges I was experiencing, with whom I could “drop the leadership mask” and talk openly and honestly about the issues, questions, doubts and feelings I was having in my role.
And it is the same today. If our leaders are to sustain consistently high levels of effectiveness amidst the growing complexity of the role, this form of support is not just helpful – it’s vital.
Social workers have supervision to help them process their toughest cases, and corporate executives have space for “lessons learned” and continuous improvement between projects.
Yet school leaders remain woefully under-supported and as a result, many are left without anyone to turn to when they are in need of support, clarity, guidance or even just some encouragement to keep going.
That’s why I am now offering free “Coaching for The Soul” support calls to ensure that no School Leader finds themselves in the same situation as I was in as a Head.
These calls provide a safe, confidential space for school leaders to:
– Talk through the challenges they are currently facing
– Get support in locating next steps and solutions to help overcome problems
– Reflect on recent events and the impact they are having
– Gain clarity around how best to move forward
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!