Head Reflections: Lessons in Self-Awareness

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At New Hampton, we work hard to know our students, understand where they are in their educational journeys, and uncover how they learn best to maximize their experience as learners and citizens in our community. We ask students to reflect and develop self-awareness regarding their learning profile to promote effective self-advocacy and confidence.

Mr. Williams speaks about the importance of self-awareness as a leader and community member.

I recently contributed to an article for aspiring heads, responding to a question about the seven things a person should know about themself before becoming a head of school. In the spirit of self-awareness and a healthy mindset, I share how I approach my work, hoping there may be an applicable takeaway for others.

  1. Understand the routines that keep you healthy and sharp—exercising, reading for pleasure, and spending time with your spouse or significant other. Whatever it may be, commit to these things, despite your long “to-do list,” so you can sustain yourself throughout the school year.
  2. Know how to manage your emotions and stress best and be patient in the face of adversity to provide the steady leadership your community, department, or group needs.
  3. Have clarity on your “non-negotiables” with colleagues and as a community. As I think about students and the adolescent pressures they face, a consistent expression of values and boundaries builds awareness and earns respect.
  4. Understand what the ideal decision-making process looks likes for you and remain disciplined about it. In my experience, the process you follow is as important as the decisions you make.
  5. Consider how you manage your time and what systems you need to keep you organized to balance the competing demands of your job or day while carving out the time and space to do your work.
  6. In a leadership role, though this is true, anytime someone puts themselves out there, understand how you will handle criticism. It is impossible to please everyone, we all have our critics, and you can’t let them deter you from making the decisions you feel are best in your role and life.
  7. Trust what got you into your position, and don’t let the role take you away from being your authentic self. While this last thought was specific to becoming a head of school, the same would be true for any new or elevated position one takes.

We all experience an ebb and flow in the demands of a day, week, and year. Having a clear self-awareness of how you will approach your days before challenges arise can make the process more manageable, the days enjoyable, and hopefully, the demands of your work feel more sustainable.

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