Updated: Nov 2, 2020
I hope you're enjoying your weekend especially as it's the bank holiday weekend before many of us return for the autumn term and will likely be educating in a very different way. Before you head back, I just wanted to share a thought with you. Working in the education industry for over twenty years has proved to be mostly a phenomenal experience. Unfortunately, some of the time has been just soul destroying. A Good Leader Makes all the Difference
Have you ever been in the mode of thoroughly enjoying your role, rising everyday filled with excitement at the thought of what challenges and brilliance the day would bring? Well this was me. I had always worked in schools with individuals who displayed challenging behaviour. Being kicked, punched, sworn at and more, was easier to deal with because we were led one who understood people and valued her team enough to listen and act without judgment. Things changed when we were introduced to our new leader who displayed very different work ethics. Her leadership style included intimidation, aggression, judgement and manipulation. It seemed her method followed the rule of divide and conquer. Only, her tactics did not conquer a team which was at war with her, instead it crushed a once vibrant and effective team who looked to her for leadership and guidance.
As I took time to look around, I witnessed a once vibrant team of professionals excited about growth, development and progress disappear under a dark cloud of fear. Fear of the risk of failure prevented individuals from sharing best practice or exploring and implementing new initiatives. Fear of being seen on the ‘wrong side’ led to backstabbing and the breakdown of strong, professional relationships, which the new leader would celebrate. I would love to say that instances like these are rare, but unfortunately that would be untrue. This kind of scenario is far more common than any of us would like to think. Was the new leader a bad person? I don’t believe so. As I look back, I can identify signs which demonstrated her mental health was suffering. The levels of physical and verbal aggression displayed were not what any of us would expect to see in an educational establishment. However, her managers did not have the knowledge which would have helped them to support her effectively. Consequently, we as a team were not supported effectively and so our mental health suffered greatly.
A Culture of Mental Health & Well Being Develops from the Top Down
Trained mental health leads are a fantastic resource. Many establishments now have one, two or more team members who are qualified to supervise mental health in the workplace and promote the mental health and well-being of those whom the organisations are set serve.
One of the most important aspects of such training is the development of self-awareness in relation to our own mental health, helping us to recognise when we ourselves have a need and must engage in self-care. Many leaders have appointed Mental Health Leads and invested in training for them, but I wonder how many leaders have invested in Mental Health training for themselves? While as leaders we may have experienced much over time, experience combined with sound knowledge can be far more effective. Self- awareness is one thing, self-awareness in relation to our own mental health needs is something far more powerful when leading people. I have no doubt that if the establishment mentioned above, had a strong Culture of Mental Health & Well Being, the outcome for the leader and other staff would have been a more positive one. Leaders, invest in your own mental health and invest in the mental health of your teams, while you continue to invest in the mental health of those whom you serve. You owe it to yourself and those you lead.
A Culture of Mental Health & Well Being demonstrates the value of every individual, including you.