Educational leaders are emotional people just like everyone else. I’m happy when I see a teacher taking a risk with a playful lesson and having fun with her kids. I’m sad when a child comes to school tired, unfed, and unkempt because his parents were up arguing all night on the verge of a bitter separation. I get angry some days too, but it was a recent set of challenging circumstances that really made me angry. This was anger that became all-consuming.
And this is unfortunate because I don’t remember being so angry in my 23-year career. I wasn’t getting anywhere in solving my challenges and being as upset as I was just made me grumpy every day. This being new to me, I had to come up with a new attitude…a new way to be a leader if I was going to continue doing my job with at least some bit of effectiveness.
It was a passage from Scott Berg's biography of Woodrow Wilson that suddenly redirected me and the jarring quote was this, "The man who has courage is marked for distinction; the man who has not is marked for extinction, and deserves submission." In a moment of open-mindedness (it was only after two weeks that my anger released its grip on my ability to be open-minded) I equated courage with my predicament and it dawned on me that I would have to be fearless in attacking my emotions if I was going to move forward. I was taking the easy path (maybe even a selfish path?) by staying in my angry "place." It was easy for me to "sit" on my anger and let it fester, but it would take strength and boldness to look past my irritation, come back to my "default" attitude (I try to be a nurturing and collaborative leader) and move on.
Drumming up courage paid off in two ways. I felt emotionally healthier than I had in weeks, which in turn made for better sleep, eating habits, and helped me be sharper on the job. Just as important, I was able to address my challenges head-on without letting them get the best of me or my school district.