Learning about yourself is the number one way you can prepare yourself to take on principalship and continuously grow as a leader. It develops self-awareness, which is critical for navigating situations with others. If you, as the principal are “dealing” with a situation with adults, you have to know yourself because the way YOU respond or react can and most times will determine the outcome. By being aware of your go-to reactions, thoughts, feelings, and going further—your strengths and weaknesses in these areas—you can make conscious efforts to improve your leadership skills and build stronger relationships with your staff.
Being a learner of yourself starts with paying attention to yourself and your thoughts, emotions, and reactions. This self-awareness can be cultivated through practices such as journaling or regular reflection. It might look like taking time to reflect on your leadership values and how they showed up throughout the day.
Here’s an example of how you could do this:
- Decide on an area of your leadership, things that you do regularly, or situations that are important to you to focus on. Just pick 1 or 2 or maybe you want to start paying attention when you are feeling triggered.
- Set your intention. Once you have the situation in mind, like if you decided to take note of yourself when you are having your post evaluation conferences this week with teachers, make a note in your planner, set an alarm in your phone, or place a sticky on your desk to remind yourself to pay attention during the event and reflect after. I’ve begun carrying a small notebook to pay attention to when I get triggered and just seeing the notebook reminds me of my intention.
- Ask yourself, what happened? Describe the situation. Who you were with, the time of day, where you were, your thoughts, feelings, your response. I just made a 5-column chart in my notebook labeled:
Date/Time, Environment, Thoughts, Feelings, Response
The goals are to first to develop your self-awareness, then to see if any patterns emerge. This will eventually enable you to get a sense for how you think, feel, and respond to different situations.
Then you can dig deeper into perhaps the why, and then you can decide if there are ways you would like to change how you respond. You can create a vision for how you want to respond in situations and then be intentional about how you go about making that vision a reality.
How long this takes really depends on the person and how self-aware you were when you started. But if you ready to take on the next step, check out episode one, Effective Leadership: Redefining Success, on my Imagine.Believe.Achieve. podcast.