Just started reading this and can't put it down! It's packed with useful information for Heads and senior leaders on how to look after yourself and how to build this into the working week. A welcome addition to my toolkit as an executive coach. ~ Review by @kirstiemcl
Why “Staying A Head: The Stress Management Secrets of Successful School Leaders” is the book for a new generation of courageous school leaders
Guest article by Viv Grant
With the increasing pace of change in our schools and heightened levels of public scrutiny and accountability, it takes a great deal of courage and bravery to be a school leader today. There are many joys involved in the role, but equally as many challenges. It is not until many school leaders get to the top of the profession, headship, that they realise that the stresses of the job are such that they need to strengthen their emotional and mental resilience in order to both thrive and survive.
What happens when the ‘rules of the game’ keep changing
When the ‘rules of the game’ change as they constantly do in education, school leaders become unsure of which rules to play by. When we are unsure, we feel insecure. We do not feel safe. Feelings of confidence, value and self worth are replaced with feelings of fear, vulnerability, self doubt and isolation. We begin to question our every thought, our every action, because we are never given enough time to embed new behaviours, learn from our actions and in so doing strengthen our self belief and confidence in our ability to succeed.
Is this right?
Imagine saying to a child, “today I am going to teach you how to play tennis” and every time they thought they had mastered how to serve and felt confident in their own abilities [ based upon what you had told them] you then said to them “ No, you’ve got it wrong. You now have to do it this way.” Not only would they soon learn not to trust you, but also they would never develop the depth of experience, knowledge and insight needed for them to become expert in the game. This is exactly what life is like for many school leaders today. True trusting relationships, where they are able to reflect upon their own development and receive honest feedback are few and far between. As a result, many only achieve a fraction of what could have been possible had they been given the right type of help and support.
Helping school leaders maintain their ability to lead and inspire others
“Staying A Head: The Stress Management Secrets of Successful School Leaders” is a book that has been written to help present and future school leaders understand how to cope with the feelings that arise when they feel unsupported and alone. It sensitively shows school leaders how coaching can help them to understand their own emotions and make sense of their own responses to change and related issues. It serves as a practical and solution focused guide book for those school leaders, who amidst the rising pressures of school leadership, want to know how to overcome the stresses of their role and maintain their ability to lead and inspire others.
Case Study : How a Head teacher learnt to drop the leadership mask and re-discovered her passion for leading
Siobhan entered my office looking tired, worn and exhausted. She recalled;
“I was exhausted, physically, and mentally. I had begun to lose weight and that’s always a sign for me that something is wrong.”
Not really knowing what she was looking for, Siobhan came to see me simply because she knew that so far her experience of headship had not been what she had expected. Her hope was that coaching might help her find a new way to feel fulfilled again as a head teacher.
In working with Siobhan it soon became apparent that in seeking to cope with the stresses and demands of the role, she had subconsciously adopted behaviours that had caused her to ‘shrink into herself’.
“I remember at our first session that I kept on saying ‘that’s not me’. Hearing myself out loud was a very important first step in reclaiming myself again. I had to explain and say out loud what I was feeling. It was scary, but it was a necessary step. I had to be honest with myself.”
As Siobhan opened up about her own inner dialogue and the accompanying behaviours she came to the realisation that her ‘leadership mask’ had only served to diminish her view of herself as a leader and had stopped her true self from taking centre stage
“As Head teacher I knew that I had to keep an eye on the future and plan ahead, but the day to day aspects took over and I wasn’t able to look forward enough. The challenges that I had to face and the behaviours that I adopted meant that I felt unfulfilled and unhappy. I felt as if I had lost myself.”
In order to help Siobhan find herself again, it was imperative that coaching provided a safe space to allow her to drop her leadership mask. So there in the safety of my office, away from the pressures of school life, Siobhan and I met every half term, we explored:
Before we had even finished our designated amount of sessions, Siobhan had not only successfully led her school through an OFSTED inspection, she had also secured a new headship post [and this was someone who prior to coaching was ready to throw in the towel!]
In learning to drop the leadership mask, Siobhan recalled;
“There was a definite feeling of change. I could almost feel it physically. It felt exhilarating! The process reignited my passion. That part of me was stirred again.”