So... leading is hard.


The summary of this post is the title - leading is hard. 

I'll be upfront in saying that I didn't expect it to be easy, but I expected it to be easier than it is. The things I worried about before stepping up don't really worry me, but instead, I find myself obsessing over things that, from my original standpoint, would seem trivial. I have found myself awake suddenly at 3am worrying that a text I have suggested for Year 2's History unit is not correct. I have agonised over the wording of an email, and have tried to psychoanalyse the intentions of the writer.

The biggest difference for me has been that I have lost a huge amount of my self-assurance. Not my confidence, but the light touch with which I utilise it. My comfort zone feels like a distant memory, despite the day-to-day reality of what I have been doing being not that different from when I was in class. 

Naively, as a teacher, I had presumed that - to some degree - moving into leadership was a way to avoid that sometimes strangling fear of being watched and judged. For me at least, this angst is far more profound now that I am the person doing the watching.

I have never felt so surveilled, watched and 'on show'. When I put on clothes in the morning, I am trying to predict how they will be received by the people I will interact with in 10 hours time. Will they make me look too casual, or too louche, or too try-hard, too flamboyant, too uptight, too fresh?

Whilst I am not dangerously loose-lipped, and didn't have any troubles with discretion as a teacher, I find myself locked in a battle with my impulsive words. I find myself acutely aware of the consequences of my word choice, and how likely I am to be misinterpreted. I find myself garbling words and getting frustrated with my inability to express myself.

My working hours are not bad at all. I am efficient and on top of things, generally speaking. 

The difficulties are all in my head, but that doesn't make them any less real or any less difficult. I'm not unhappy but I'm not happy either; more than anything I'm not relaxed. Never, really. Not so much that I don't feel guilty, or renegade for relaxing.

I am juggling roles at the moment. I spend most of my time in class teaching, with a group of children who I feel I have made a real impact with in a very short time, unfurling some of the bad habits and dysfunctional dynamics that cause them stress and inhibit their learning. I think perhaps because I too am now experiencing the occasional pangs of self-doubt, social anxieties and feelings of not being up to the task, I am better able to connect authentically with what they are feeling.

So yeah... this is a low, and leadership is hard. 

Author Profile

Jonny Walker

Jonny Walker

AHT in Year 5/6. Storytelling. Humanities. Like getting kids to think deeply and laugh.

11 stories


Anoara Mughal Anoara Mughal @ano 4 months ago
Thank you for writing this Jonny. This is very useful for when I start in September! @jonnywalker
Shirley Drummond Shirley Drummond @sdrummond 4 months ago
@jonnywalker you need to attend a WomenEd event.. That imposter syndrome is not uncommon. But it gets easier... just be yourself.. surely that's how you got your leadership post.. that's who the staff and pupils want , just you.
Jonny Walker Jonny Walker @jonnywalker 3 months ago
Thanks Shirley and Anoara - things picked up towards the end of this week.
Katy Skivington Katy Skivington @katyskivington 3 months ago
Really honest writing, @jonnywalker . I think we've all felt like that. I certainly recognise those self-doubting/questioning moments.

Leadership is like appearing in a quiz show; you could've sworn that, when you were watching from the safety of your armchair, you knew all the answers. But once on the show, the questions seem 100 times harder, and the answers don't come automatically like they did when you were watching from a distance.

And not only that, you're plagued by the fact that there are people at home, yelling at the TV, who can't believe that you don't know the answers.
{{ modalTitle }} {{{ modalData }}} {{ modalTitle }} {{{ modalData }}} Join the conversation
Sign in or sign up to post comments, follow colleagues, recommend stories and build your own professional profile.
Staffrm is the professional network for educators passionate about their work.
Please Sign In {{ modalData }} Sign In