Practice of the Month

Lessons for Leaders

Back to School

Let the Lessons Begin!

As we begin another school year, I'm reminded of certain constants that mark the rhythm of the academic cycle. As a long-time educator myself, I’ve come to appreciate the excitement of a fresh year and the opportunity to meet a new group of students, many of whom are taking a next step in their educational journey involving major transitions that bring new experiences and new challenges.

I’m also mindful that the new challenges students face at this time of year bring with them increased stress from a variety of sources—academic, intellectual, financial, and relational.

  • Will I be able to master the new course requirements?
  • Will my new teachers have reasonable expectations?
  • Will I be accepted by my peers?
  • What if I fail to meet the expectations of my parents or others?

These and many other concerns need to be managed by young people already undergoing developmental demands that predictably raise anxiety in even the most healthy, well-balanced individuals. For students who struggle with persistent anxiety, the new experiences and new challenges of a new academic year can be overwhelming and can lead to choices that may prove to be unhealthy.

How Can Leaders (Like Me) Lead Well?

I'm a veteran educator, and as I indicated above, I appreciate the excitement the start of a new school year brings with it—the new experiences, the new opportunities (aka “challenges”), and the new relationships that fuel the learning and growth that education is meant to foster. I don’t feel alone in this effort, because I know that I am part of a team of leaders—administrators, counsellors, parents, fellow faculty members, and myriad others who bring their skills and caring presence to help young people make the most of this and every academic year. Each of us exercises a unique leadership role and brings our own expertise to bear as we contribute our part in the hope it will benefit each student.

But what are the common denominators we share as resilient leaders?

What are the foundational leadership abilities and skills that support and enhance the different ways that each of us contributes to the student’s education?

In last month's Practice, we wrote that during perpetual uncertainty, resilient leaders practice "staying calm". We discussed that staying calm can have a positive effect on the individual leader's presence, thus allowing others to think more clearly. The more a leader can “stay calm” the more others—fellow leaders, parents, and students—can think clearly during stressful times. This is important because when people get anxious, they tend to choose behaviors that bring them or those they lead temporary comfort. For example, when we are overwhelmed by too much stress, we can distract ourselves with social media or overeating or simply going to sleep to avoid addressing a difficult challenge or having an uncomfortable conversation with a colleague or friend.

In addition to observing the Resilient Leadership imperative to “Stay Calm”, this month we want to call attention to the second imperative, “Stay the Course.”

Staying the course occurs when leaders are clear about their principles and the principles of their school. Clarity about one’s vision and values makes it much easier to be thoughtful when under stress. And because the nature of a leader’s presence is contagious, when we as leaders are more thoughtful, those around us — whether peers, superiors or students — are better able to remain calm and address their own challenges in ways that are more thoughtful and less reactive.

As you begin another school year, this is the right time to re-examine the goals you have for yourself personally and professionally. Think about what you want to accomplish this year and beyond. With these goals in mind, avoid "short-term" comfort decision making. Rather, develop plans that encourage longer term stability and are more likely to achieve the more meaningful outcomes that flow from your core values and vision.

If you are curious about knowing more about getting a stronger grip on self-management visit our FREE RL Self-Assessment:

Resilient Leadership Self-Assessment

To learn more about how to SEE, THINK and LEAD more effectively using the principles of Resilient Leadership, please contact us.

John Moyer

John Moyer
This article was contributed by John Moyer Secondary School Educator and RL Trainer.
John has helped leaders of all ages discover that leadership is influence- which starts with the leader becoming a less anxious presence. You can contact John at