Saturday, December 11, 2010

Addressing Stress and a Responsibility of Leadership

I frequently say that one of the reasons many people do not accept the call to take on leadership roles more often is an unwillingness to accept the responsibilities that accompany leadership roles.  When I talk to people about why these responsibilities are such a roadblock, I am led to believe that the issues are normally not a lack of confidence or ability to perform at a high level and address these responsibilities effectively.  What I do find is a that more often than not potential leaders are turned away because they do not want the stress that comes along with these additional responsibilities.

From my own career, the ability to accept and manage the stress of leadership responsibilities was the biggest obstacle that I needed to overcome before I was able to make the decision to pursue a career path in administration.  Even today, I find one of the most challenging aspects of my work is to continue to function at a high level while under stress.

Each of us has our own set of strengths and talents as a leader.  I, as a student of leadership, will often call upon examples of past leaders to help me find strategies for getting through a particularly stressful time.  One piece of advice that has served me well (and other whom I have also shared this advice) is found in a quote by President Theodore  Roosevelt,

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

This “philosophy” has carried me through tough times and has provided comfort to many others with whom I have worked.  I find it powerful because it helps me focus on me, not the situation.  By focusing on me, I can separate myself for a moment from the situation and rely on what I have control over, my own efforts and decisions.

Effective school leaders are also great learners.  When I look back on stressful situations and reflect on my responses, I often learn more about my own strengths and limitations.  These are valuable lessons because the next “test” is just around the corner.

"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learnt something from yesterday." – inscription on John Wayne’s headstone

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