It is no secret that leaders in education are stressed. According to a 2013 article by Suzi Parker of takepart.com, principals “are so stressed out that many of them do not expect to be in the same job in five years.” (Parker 2013) The major issues that principals brought up time again were lack of resources, challenges related to meeting the needs of all students, and engaging parents and community members. (Parker 2013) School systems cannot afford that level of burn-out among administrators. But what can we do to fix it?
First of all, let’s be honest. The major challenges that principals listed as the major causes of their stress will probably not magically disappear anytime soon. Instead, school leaders need to think about what they can do to help their own stress levels. This is where it becomes important for leaders to “strike a balance” between their professional lives and their personal lives.
I see particular value in Bill George’s assertion that an important part of managing the stress of leadership is by making sure to find time for yourself. Life cannot be all about work, work, and more work. This model is not sustainable. It is important for leaders to figure out what they need to do to give themselves the most meaningful break from work. It could be spending time with friends, attending a social event, listening to music, or engaging in physical exercise. The important thing is that the time away from work should leave you feeling refreshed and ready to dive back in. (George 2007)
Once leaders find what activities they enjoy, it is important to be intentional about making the time to do those activities. The routine cannot be given up during particularly busy times. (George 2007) In fact, it is probably even more important to maintain time to yourself when things are really busy. It may be difficult for a leader to feel as if they are sacrificing time they could be working to spend time riding a bike, but in the long run, this commitment to life outside of work will pay off in the form of less stress and lower rates of burn-out.
George, Bill. 2007. True North: discover your authentic leadership/Bill George with Peter Sims; foreword by David Georgen – 1st. ed.
Parker, Suzi. 2013. Stressed Out And Fed Up: What’s Eating School Principals? http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/02/26/why-americas-school-principals-are-stressed-out.