Self-Care as Leadership Sustenance

Type: Article
Topics: Health & Wellness, School Administrator Magazine

December 01, 2019

President's Corner
AS SCHOOL LEADERS, we face myriad challenges every day, from significant funding cuts and declining enrollment, to safety concerns and personal attacks on social media. Nevertheless, we serve and advocate for all children who come through our doors every day.

As equity leaders, we are the ones our school community looks to for hope, joy, stability, tenacity and resilience. But what do we do when we need support personally and professionally?

Leadership sustenance is more than operating in survival mode. Working well means being mentally and physically engaged. To be innovative we must be able to think creatively. To be creative we must be rested. Being overworked is not a badge of honor but a signal that we need to disrupt overextended schedules. If we don’t take the time for self-care, how can we support and care for others in our charge?

Self-care is nourishment for the soul — it reclaims our lives for better work-life balance. Self-care must be a priority to sustain the ever-changing demands on our time as resilient leaders.

At a leadership retreat in our district, I gave each team member the book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. The author emphasizes that rest not only makes us more productive but makes our lives richer and more fulfilling. As superintendent, I encourage my team to reclaim their personal lives by setting aside quality time for personal life, to work with more focus by detaching from technology and to make time for rest.

Another aspect of self-care is maintaining connections with colleagues. Successful leaders develop a network of critical friends with whom they can have conversations and share situations without a filter. It is especially critical for women leaders to develop a trusted network of colleagues, recruit others who may be like-minded and connect with other professionals who may help them accomplish their goals.

Our AASA Bold Women–Bold Coffee networking breakfast does just this. During this event at the upcoming AASA National Conference on Educationin San Diego, Linda Darling-Hammond will share her leadership journey and what it means to be an advocate for women’s leadership issues in education. 

The women who attended last year’s event in Los Angeles inspired us all by sharing their hopes and dreams and how our member-driven organization can best support women in leadership roles.

Finally, despite all the challenges we face as leaders, we cannot overlook the priority of our own lifelong personal and professional learning. To empower others, we must em-power ourselves to be leaders of education. We do this by taking care of our own learning and growth in our respective positions. To challenge and stretch others, we must be willing to do so ourselves.

When challenges seem overwhelming, it is not the time to go into bunker mentality and stay low. This is the time to rise up and continue to aspire to higher levels of learning just as our colleagues inspire students to stretch and grow in their learning experiences.

Self-care is taking the initiative to stay connected to people whom you respect and to whom you give honest and candid feedback. Seek advice when you are challenged and need to consider other perspectives to problem solve. Leadership is complex and there is no generic solution to our challenges.

When we become intentional about caring for ourselves, collaborating with other professionals for social well-being and efficacy and continuing to learn and grow in every aspect of our personal and professional lives, we nourish our souls as leaders.

Be brave to take on the challenges, be bold in finding solutions and be brilliant in managing the self-care that is essential to your success.