I suspect that if you asked many people to summon up an image of someone who is courageous, you would get a wide variety of answers. Great wartime leaders perhaps or soldiers who risked all on the battlefield to save a wounded comrade. Perhaps some people may bring to mind a great athlete, who overcame great odds to become a gold medallist. Perhaps, some innovative business leader such as Steve Jobs or Richard Branson, who dared to be different and broke the mould. Some, people (though I suspect much fewer!) may even call to mind a famous politician. However, sadly, I strongly suspect that no-one would be likely to call to mind an image of their friendly neighbourhood school leader. Perhaps it is that we associate courage with people being famous and operating on a national or international stage, whereas the vast majority of school leaders work at a local level with scant recognition for what they do.
If a school was appointing a new headteacher and asked parents, pupils and even governors, what characteristics they were looking for in their new headteacher, I suspect that courage would come a long way down the list after kindness, firmness, imaginative and aspirational. The fact of the matter is that courage is not a trait that is generally associated with school leaders. And yet we know different don’t we? With so many plates to keep spinning I cannot imagine any school could get through an academic year, term, month or even a working week, without courage.
Leadership can be scary at times. Fear of failure or humiliation go hand in hand with the job. Courage is feeling fear but moving forward anyway. If you are waiting for fear to disappear before you take action or making a decision, you are going to be waiting a long time! You are allowing fear to paralyse you if mentally visualise a perfect scenario in your head that feels “safe”, before you take action.
So what is courage?
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
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