International School Leadership, like all leadership, is fundamentally about setting a very clear vision, then a plan, and persisting with it over an extended time in spite of the barriers and in spite of any excuses. Research shows that if you create specific plans for your goals, then you’re much more likely to achieve them. The barriers look smaller, solutions are more easily found and passionate motivated leaders don’t seem to find excuses for failure.
Insert: John Maxwell, Tony Robbins, Peter Drucker, Danial Goleman, Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie …… and some motivational music, quotes and fanfare. (Yes, I read them too)
As leaders we tend to be strategic, calculated and we act on proven research. We follow the global leaders and aim to emulate them.
But let’s reflect openly on another areas where some leaders are not doing such a great job. Reduced stamina, weight gain, increased blood pressure, increased susceptibility to illness, reductions in cognitive performance, achy joints, fatigue, and fairly regular all round irritability. Job performance compromised, increased risk of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and stroke. The bottom line is that some leaders are not taking care of themselves and it is hurting their school leadership.
For many leaders it is easy to focus on the research about self improvement in traditional work performance areas but not in their personal lives. For some reason making health a priority does not reach that list.
Maybe it is time to make health and well being core business. At least that is what we are telling our students and staff to do isn’t it? International School Leadership demands balanced leadership.
Nutrition is core business for International School Leadership
Good nutrition delivers significant health benefits but also fuels your brain. If success and achievement is our mission then we need to make sure we are well equipped to make good decisions. While there are many different opinions about diets and weight loss, let’s just focus on the key foods that will deliver nutrients for a healthy body and healthy mind.
As a general rule we need to eat more unprocessed foods and increase the balance of plant based foods to fuel our brain with good nutrition. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and spices in balanced quantities provide chemical compounds that aid in combating oxidative stress and inflammation within the body. A good diet improves working memory, staves off or reverses cognitive decline and it increases our ability to manage complex learning tasks.
The benefits of fibre are well known but it also improves brain function by helping to regulate blood glucose levels in the body. We also know that it can make us more alert and reduce stress.
As a general rule we improve nutrition when we focus on unprocessed fruits, vegetables and proteins located away from the central aisles of grocery stores. These foods are dense with nutrients, they are satisfying and fuel your body with sustainable energy. They are essential fuels to create mental clarity.
Quality rest and sleep is core business
Switching off can be really tough. We have learnt that success is achieved when we stay focussed, work hard, increase efficiency as well as output. We seek out motivation experts, coaches, podcasts, conferences, all designed to make us energised and work harder as well as longer. But if we can reframe this belief, realising that an investment in rest and sleep will actually reap greater rewards, maybe we can create a different paradigm. If we can reset the boast of “working longer hours” into the frame of “worked more efficiently in less time” then we would be more effective and healthy.
We tend to not get enough sleep because we work too much. But we are not getting enough work done or being efficient with high outputs, because we are not getting enough sleep and rest. In his TEDx talk “The Science of Sleep (and the Art of Productivity),” Dr. Matthew Carter argues that “You’re able to get more done on a good night’s sleep, not less.”
Sleep and rest quantity and quality, including insomnia, sleepiness, and snoring are all associated with decreased work productivity. We need to consider sleep as an essential element of workplace health and core business for school leadership.
International School Leadership includes Physical Activity as core business
Many of the great, high profile leaders are commonly bragging about their exercise regime and it is not just because they are “influencers” trying to project a great physical image. They know it is a cor business for great leadership.
Exercise significantly improves brain function and research proves it has a positive impact on long-term memory, reasoning, attention span, problem-solving abilities and creativity.
Exercise improves mood, reduces anxiety, depression, and negative thinking. It encourages an outlook of optimism, self-efficacy and general happiness. When we exercise vigorously and regularly we actually create new blood vessels in the cerebellum, the hippocampus, and the motor cortex of our brains. This natural process declines with age, so maintaining consistent levels of exercise as we get older prevents this decline. These blood vessels improve circulation and flow, which improves oxygen and nutrient deliver. Memory formation, is highly dependent on oxygen as well as well as functioning to remove waste. Increased blood flow improves cognitive processes and helps prevent such things as Alzheimer’s disease, connected to reduced flow.
Aerobic exercise also enhances several neurotransmitters in the brain, including circulating dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine. These neurotransmitters play a role in mental health, mood enhancement, and wakefulness, among other things.
Higher intensity, aerobic exercise completed in a regular routine increases the production of neurochemicals that encourage growth and repair of brain cells. It keeps existing neurons young and healthy, and encourages the formation of new cells in the brain. Put simply, exercise nourishes the brain.
If we are serious about being great leaders we need to make exercise part of our core business. The business of International School Leadership includes balance.
Mindfulness is core business for International School Leadership
If it is not our community and supervisors expecting even more from us, we are very likely to be having higher and higher expectations of ourselves. We pressure ourselves to be productive and to be available 24/7for anything that is required. Although this may seem honourable, this can lead to a working environment that is highly fragmented by many number of distractions and increasingly complex and innumerable demands. Our attention spans are becoming becoming shorter as we struggle to find our way through this complicated and demanding minefield. This then creates an environment that has many obstacles and limitations for rational decisions, calm and confident leadership. Are we fully or partially attentive?
“We cannot afford to make decisions with unbalanced and distracted minds. Too often we react instead of responding thoughtfully. We need to train our minds to pause when required and to lead deliberately but calmly with focus and clarity.”Greg Parry
We are motivated and committed. We frequently commit to courage and determination with a focus on work output but too often it is without balancing the complete plan.
If we are truly serious about becoming great leaders then we need to make balance a key priority of our core business.
If you want to learn more about the steps required to set up an outstanding school check out some of our other articles:
CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry
Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for edu-cation institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.
Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines.
Global Services in Education set up and operate schools in all parts of the world. Governed by a philosophy of global citizenship, every member of the GSE team shares a passion to help shape international education and student achievement through inspiration and collaboration.
Our goal is to meet the highest objectives of every school, teacher, student and parent, with an unwavering dedication to quality education, shared ideals and intercultural perspectives.
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