A resilient education leader is what we need today
By Florence B. Caparanga
What is really the point of being a leader in today’s world? Is it because one would like to gain power or recognition? While some, may be, would really like to serve and be of service to other people? Being a leader is something that not every one is given the chance to take this role. May be, some worked hard for it or some have all the lucks and charms why they got this role.
However, the decision to embrace and accept this role of becoming a leader may not be that easy because of the demands, pressures and high level of expectations that leadership positions create and give. It is a glaring fact that the many challenges we met and expectations we got from the people we are serving would definitely give pressure to all leaders, just like me. Most of the time, if we fail to manage these stresses effectively, we might be certainly leading towards a negative personal and performance outcome of the organization we are leading.
On a very personal note, there was a certain point of my leadership journey as a School Head in an Elementary School where giving up became an option. But, resilience made me survive. It was I believed that best options that I had to choose and take. I had to be strong and courageous enough in balancing the comfort and discomfort that surrounded and confronted me in many facets of my roles as a leader. That time, I had to ensure that I gracefully composed myself under stress and difficult circumstances.
But, how could we really survive from the various ups and downs, rocky roads and seemingly difficulty leadership scenarios that we normally face? My simple answer is, be resilient.
Therefore, education leaders need to exhibit and carry with them resiliency at all times. Kohlrieser (2015) et. al said that resilience is the human capacity to meet adversity, setbacks and trauma, and then recover from them in order to live life fully. Resilient leaders have the ability to sustain their energy level under pressure, to cope with disruptive changes and adapt. They bounce back from setbacks. They also overcome major difficulties without engaging in dysfunctional behavior or harming others.
According to Fernandez, Clerkin, and Ruderman (2022), there are four core areas of resilient leadership. First, is the physical resilience which pertains to the body’s capacity to respond to stressors with strength and stamina, as well as recover from injury. In our schools, facing various stresses is already part of the game. The stress that may arise out of managing people, implementing the school curriculum, financial management, coordination with parents and the whole operation of the school should never be avoided or ignored by any leader. Stress is something that we have to face and conquer because if we will let these stressors to freely penetrate our very core and personal focus on the job, we will definitely suffer and feel their effects to our greatest disadvantage as school leaders. In fact, the American Psychological Association (2018) states that a stressful work environment can contribute to problems such as headache, stomachache, sleep disturbances, short temper, and difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity, and heart disease.
Second, mental resilience is the ability to maintain or regain cognitive capacities that risk degradation and to allow creativity to emerge. Psychological resilience has been defined as the ability of a person to recover, re-bound, bounce-back, adjust or even thrive following misfortune, change or adversity (Garcia-Dia et al., 2013). As leaders, it is important that we should rise above these difficult scenarios and adapt to change and uncertainties by being flexible, calm and continue to hold on to positivity most especially in times of work-related crisis. As I always say, face these problems with a big smile because as leaders, we should always remember that life is not all rainbows and butterflies. As leaders, there are always pains and sometimes, it is more painful than what we are expecting. The problems in the school might come any time of the day, but with our built-in strength and courage, we can be able to maintain a healthy, sound and sane mind at all times. I firmly believe, that for every problem, there is always a corresponding solution. As stated by Remez Sasson, no matter how difficult things are, if you believe earnestly that they will improve, and you do everything in your power to solve them, things will eventually improve.
Third, emotional resilience which centers on understanding, appreciating, and regulating emotions, and consciously choosing feelings and responses, rather than simply automatically reacting to the environment. I always believed that when we are confronted by difficult circumstances, disappointments, frustrations and even anger in our workplace, we should control and manage our emotions well because no one can do that for us, except ourselves. According to Stange (2021), when emotions start to bubble up, don't panic, instead, we need to take a deep breath and recognize the emotion for what it is. We are also discouraged to react immediately, instead , we should try to put a label on what it is that we are feeling. As a school leader, emotional resilience would also mean emotional maturity. We should try to ponder on things that are happening in our workplace by looking into the cause, the sides and the possible effects of the issues at hand. As leaders, we should never make abrupt decisions especially if our emotion is so high.
Fourth, social resilience reflects an individual’s capacity to work with others to endure and recover from stressors. As leaders, we should accept that people are watching us. Those people under our mantle of our leadership would give comments, feedbacks and sometimes, would throw negative words against us. Worst, some would even underestimate our capacity to lead. But never let these negativities from the outside totally affect us. Let’s remember, from the time that we took the role of being a leader, we at the same time make our functions and even our lives an open book for them, which might be subject for question and scrutiny. Now, how strong are we in facing these external negativities that might infiltrate our focus as a leader? For me, I just keep this in mind, that as leader, I am not perfect and I am always willing to listen and understand people and the community as a whole. Indeed, it takes a lot of courage to exemplify open mindedness.
Now, the point of being a leader is to serve and be of service with resiliency and tenacity at hand.