Leaders spend enormous amounts of money and time to prepare themselves for the knowledge of leadership. But, do we recognize or plan for the demand on our emotional selves. True leadership moves beyond accuracy, content expertise, and effectiveness and assumes responsibility for the heart and soul of our organization and our staff. After ten years of school leadership, I have to take a time-out, reflect on multiple years of emotional highs and lows that have been assigned to the role of principal, and ask myself: Have I ever spent any intentional time developing my own emotional being?
The first step in developing your emotional health is accepting the inextricable relationship between your professional and personal experiences. Successful leaders have generally shown high proficiency in separating their professional life from their personal life. They leave their children’s soccer schedules, lunches, and lastest homework project; put on their suits, pull out their smartphones, grab their cappuchinos; and head to be people who operate from their compartmentalized work identities.
Our work identities are like avatars. They have a specific look, interaction style, and history that are filled with their own emotional storylines. We feel at work, relate, communicate, and respond. We traverse invisible walls that lead us from one world to another. It isn’t a far stretch to recognize that there are some of us who may find our home identity to be our avatar. Either way, we fool ourselves if we think that our emotional being is actually divisible by two. Try preventing personal emotional trauma from affecting your professional self. Or, the other way around.
We have only one emotional self. How healthy is it? Your effectiveness in leading the heart, soul, and humanity of your organization is only as strong as the strength of your emotional self.
For the next 365 days, after an extremely difficult personal experience and a cataclysmic professional tragedy, I am devoting myself to my emotional being. This blog is my footprint through that path.
I recently realized something startling. I wanted to take a good picture of my son with my point-and-shoot camera with an unbelievable delay between pressing the button to take the picture and the actual take. As I was watching through the view, trying to predict what was about to happen in time to actually take the picture, I started noticing things about my son that I had never seen before. I realized, then, how little I observe the moment. I am so good at overthinking things before and after they happen, and so bad at reading and responding in the moment.
I chose photography to frame my emotional journey through the next year. I bought a higher quality camera and plan to use this medium to document my path. I don’t care about being a great photographer. Though, as I come upon more sophisticated thoughts, I’ll want more sophisticated ways to express them. I imagine that my improved skill at photography will provide that opportunity.
Journey with me. I am sure that my experiences will resonate with yours.