Your team right now
Even with a changing landscape, the team and organization you lead is made up of many people who look forward to getting back to work after navigating (and surviving!) a deadly virus last year. During that time, many have probably experienced relationship stress, including conflict over virus risks, vaccine safety, politics or financial strain. And they are now learning what it might take to move safely in a world that is perhaps less scary — but unfamiliar and restricted all the same.
Meanwhile, school leaders across the country continue to face challenges that never existed before, from vaccination rates, masks and social distancing and expectations for air quality and cleaning practices, to a well-documented mental health crisis affecting young people at historic rates.
In “COVID-19 — school leadership in crisis?” published in the Journal of Professional Capital and Community, researcher Alma Harris contends that the long-practiced traditional school leadership model has widely been replaced by distributed leadership practice, which values capacity building over control. This relies on motivating people to engage, act and lead.
“For the foreseeable future, school leaders will be dealing with issues arising from an unfolding and unpredictable set of complex situations,” she writes. “Therefore, self-care must be the number one priority for all leaders to ensure that they remain healthy and well enough to support others.”
A leader’s ability to support their team has never been more essential to organizational success. “Kindness, gratitude and empathy are now the leadership currency to get things done. Making reasonable demands on colleagues and having patience for others and self are imperative for those leading schools,” Harris concludes.
“Even as we begin to feel like life is more normal, the stress is still there,” says Katie Dorn MA, LSC, MFT. Dorn is co-founder of EmpowerU and an experienced licensed school counselor and therapist. “Leaders have a great opportunity to help the people on their team begin the journey from overwhelm and anxiety to a refreshed state of energy, motivation and inspiration. This happens when people are able to connect authentically with their coworkers and leaders and walk away feeling seen, heard and understood for what they’re feeling right now—which could change from day to day.”
With the strategic use of empathy in person, in writing and in spoken communications, being that leader is easier than it may seem at first glance.