I have recently been introduced to the work of Irish author and poet, David Whyte. One of his books that I have found impossible to put down, “The Three Marriages – Reimagining work, self and relationship” is a book that I would highly recommend to any head teacher or school leader. In both poetic and poignant terms, he shows us how we can show up as our true authentic selves across all areas of our lives.
If you are a head teacher or a school leader, you know that authenticity brings the greatest joy and the greatest challenge. You know the feelings of exhilaration that are experienced when you see the evidence around you of your vision being fulfilled. Equally you know just how disconcerting it can feel and the negative impact circumstances can have on on your own well-being when:
– Your values are challenged
– Situations beyond your control ask you to compromise on deeply held beliefs
– Others disregard who you are and make demands for you to behave in ways that are out of character
Being authentic means digging deep
To rise above these challenges you need to be able to dig deep and have a personal reservoir that you can constantly draw from. David Whyte refers to this personal reservoir as an ‘inner well’ and says, “Often our inability to draw on that inner well can become more and more painful, the further we get from the water. If we are involved in the outer world in ways that betray our conscience or deeply held beliefs, then ever simple internal questions can become very difficult to ask.”
The questions that David is referring to, are those questions that keep us rooted in who we are and give us our deep sense of self and purpose. They are questions that must be continually revisited (particularly under times of stress and with SAT’s week upon us, this just might be one of those times for you). These questions bring deep personal alignment. They ensure that our beliefs on the inside, match the behaviours that we show to others on the outside. They help us maintain our authenticity.
If you are feeling that an inner drought may have set in and that you have travelled far from your ‘inner well’, the questions below will help you to reconnect with your inner spring and personal motivations.
Questions from the ‘Inner well’
1. What do you see as your purpose in life?
2. What are the reasons that you have chosen to be in the leadership role that you are in?
3. What are the values that underpin your leadership vision and behaviours?
4. When you show up as your true authentic self, what does it look and feel like?
5. How do others respond to you and what do their responses tell you about the positive impact of your leadership?
When we engage with these types of questions, David Whyte suggests that we deepen our understanding of who we are and how to authentically engage with our work and the roles we occupy. He says, “We must have a relationship with our work that is larger than any individual job description we are given. A real work, like a real person, grows and changes and surprises us, asking continually for a recommitment.’
It is my belief that this is exactly what many Heads and school leaders know to be true. Your work is larger than your job description. It is a real work, full of constant surprises and challenges. All of which you must learn to rise above, so that you can maintain your well being and be of best service to yourself and others.
A chance to explore what matters most
In order to sustain high levels of personal performance, confidence and motivation (particularly amidst the challenges of School Leadership), I believe our leaders need chance to explore the questions that are of real importance to them as a person and in their roles.
They need chance to step back from the daily grind of the role and reflect on the leader they want to be, what inspires and drives them as a leader and what they need to do to keep their hope alive.
That’s why we offer our “Developing Headspace” Programme, consisting of a 2 Day “Transforming Leadership” Residential in Suffolk, Group Nurture Meals, coaching calls and a half day “Review and a Reflect” session, all designed to support and enhance Headteachers’ capacity for authentic, inspiring and sustainable leadership.
The programme hopes to offer a space for reflection and active, informed listening, for Heads to renew perspective, think strategically, build lasting networks of support and refresh the vitality of their core purpose.
Spread across three school terms, the programme includes a range of activities designed to provide on-going care, support and encouragement for Heads across the school year.
Above all, it is our aim to ensure that the programme supports school leaders in 5 key areas…
Vision: Central to all aspects of the programme are processes and ways of working individually and collectively that keep individuals anchored to their vision.
Values: Heads are supported to identify ways of being that increase alignment with themselves and their key values.
Resilience: As Heads develop a deeper understanding of how they respond to the stresses of the role, individuals are supported to develop greater degrees of emotional, psychological and vocational resilience.
A Values Network: The programme design facilitates the development of new supportive and collaborative relationships with like-minded peers.
Confidence: As individuals experience a growth in self-awareness and appreciation of their core strengths, they also experience a growth in personal conviction and increased confidence in their own abilities.
If you’d like to find out more about the programme, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…