We leaders are under tremendous pressure, not only to do the work of the organization but also to care for those who do the work alongside us. For that reason, our days are long, and the task list is never-ending. Due to the professional responsibilities we carry, it can be easy for us to lose balance in our personal lives, neglecting our families, friends and even ourselves. How do we maintain and thrive in a healthy way?
Many of us who are leaders in education believe we can change the world. And we do… one child at a time. We are mission-driven people. However, let’s be honest… we are not superheroes. Unlike Superman, we cannot stop the freight train of racism. Unlike the Wonder Twins, we cannot transform a budget from deficit to surplus with our powers. What we can do is make incremental changes by investing in people through relationships.
Oddly enough, some of us who lead feel more comfortable with having a role to play than with just being ourselves. When we are solving problems or managing a group of teachers or students, we are confident and self-assured, but when we are sitting around a dinner table with our colleagues or friends, we are quiet and uncertain. Such complexity is part of being human.
And, I believe that for some of us, the most difficult thing to admit is that we are human. What does the acceptance of our humanity have to do with leadership? Everything.
When we accept who we are… the good, the bad, and the ugly, then we are able to accept others in their good, bad, and ugly. We are empowered to meet our fellow human beings with compassion, rather than judgment. We engender authenticity through connection. Connection sparks community, and communities create systemic change.
How do we move toward compassionate and authentic leadership? We must first do our own heart work. This is often the most difficult and most rewarding work of our lives.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Find your safe space – Leadership can be a very lonely place. We are taking care of others, but they are not taking care of us. Be intentional about spending time with one or more leaders you trust with whom you can share both professional and personal challenges in order to find support.
- Define your refill practice – You are giving 24/7. You must take time to feed your soul. What do you do to recharge? Take a walk. Read a book for pleasure. Do yoga. Paint. Make refilling part of your daily, weekly and monthly routine.
- Journal – You are carrying a great deal. Process the struggles and expectations of yourself and others by writing them out. Let it be stream-of-consciousness. Do not worry about grammar or spelling. Just let the words flow. Release your fears and worries as you write.
- Make time for solitude – As leaders we are continually surrounded by people. We must take time to be alone in order to listen to our hearts. What are we thinking? What are we feeling? Be still and know.
- Celebrate with family and friends – The people closest to you are your biggest cheerleaders. Share the journey with them and listen as they share their journeys. Be intentional about celebrations… birthdays, sports events, professional milestones. Dance, sing, laugh… be silly. Have fun!
Remember that our job as leaders is to help lead people from fear to courage, from lack to abundance, from anxiety to joy. To genuinely lead, we must be on that journey ourselves.
About the author
Tamara Fyke is an educator and social entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and urban communities. She is the creator and author of Love In A Big World, which provides mental health, SEL, and wellness curriculum and content. During quarantine, Tamara created MusiCity Kids, an online educational show for kids ages 6-12 that addresses health, movement, character development, STEAM, and more.