Building a better legacy

How can headteachers move away from martydom towards freedom?

I finished my first coaching session at 7.30am this morning. We started our conversation exploring what it is about my client’s job that means the only time she can fit in coaching is 6.30am. Her response astounded me, ‘I didn’t want to take time away from the school.’ There was guilt attached to creating time and space for her own professional development. I reflected about how I was able to ‘reclaim’ that hour later, with a walk and a coffee, yet she was heading in to a day tied to the pressures and demands of a busy school until sundown. I was the same as a headteacher. For the first year of headship I drove to school on Saturday mornings because ‘there was no other time to get it done.’ I did begin to see that I was choosing to behave like this but battled with managing my ego, and rather than facing the reality of how ‘impossible’ the job was, I was driving myself and in the process masking the real issues. This morning I came away worried about the profession and the so called ‘martyr culture’ of school leadership. I believe the time is now to tackle this. For the wellbeing of headteachers and in the name of truth and progress. When coaching headteachers I witness versions and degrees of this in all of my clients. From neglecting their own basic survival needs (eating, drinking water and going to the toilet) to absorbing workstreams of colleagues in a bid to keep their colleague afloat. It doesn’t happen as much in industry. I am coaching and executive in the U.S who works for a multinational corporation. She celebrates her efficiency and assertiveness despite a highly competitive, divisive and tumultuous work environment. I found myself on my walk today wondering about how I could best support headteachers to manage their needs for the greater good, through my work as a coach. I think it comes down to legacy. What do we want our sector-wide impact as headteachers to be? In 10 years’ time, do we want to look back and say we did our best and had an impact on our schools at a very high personal cost? Or do we want to create a different legacy, one that tells the story of how we turned the profession from martyrdom to assertive servitude? We have the responsibility to move away from a profession that apologises for its sorry self to an entity that boldly knows its value. Headteachers have the ability to influence the story and those of us who are privileged enough to work with them need to empower them to build a legacy that is brave and worthy. The how is up to them – this can only be done from the inside, but the conditions for change are key. So today I pledge to create safety for headteachers to start this conversation – will you join me?

Nadia offers executive coaching for headteachers and coaching training and programmes for schools –

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