Leadership, Purpose, Uncategorized

It can feel lonely at the top!

By Cole Andrew, BA(Ed), NPQH, AdCert

Who knew 5 weeks ago that ‘self-isolation’ would be a concept we’d consider a core part of our daily lives in Britain in 2020?  In my 31-year career in education, 25 have involved leadership of teams and schools; the past 18 months supporting leaders as an independent consultant.  The last few weeks have involved conversations and activity supporting school leadership teams in navigating through uncharted waters in a way that I have never experienced before.

Nelson Mandela commented, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”  This is a moment where school leaders are necessarily at the front in potentially dangerous waters.

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – John Quincy Adams

Seeing life’s challenges as opportunities is in itself a true measure of growth and success.  Effective leadership teams are needed now more than ever, more so than other worldly measures of success. Life and work have taught me that this requires strong inner leadership as well as acknowledging the responsibility for leading others.   Whatever roles you define yourself by, others are watching, waiting and/or filling the void where leadership is needed.  So, I present myself with a pause for thought and challenge you to do the same … am I leading well in this season?

In this season school leaders are giving all they can muster from within to show strength and chart new paths.  They have listened to the worries of pupils, staff, parents, politicians, family members and their own inner voices.   They have contained most of this with strong character, brave decisions (often not pleasing everyone) and above all been driven to do right by everyone involved.

“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”  – Nelson Mandela

In the midst of this I have felt, heard and seen school leaders become more and more emotionally isolated despite physical connectivity with colleagues, family and friends; hence my opening title, “It can feel lonely at the top!”  So, I say to all Head teachers, CEOs, school leaders remember you are not alone, and the work are doing is a service to better the lives of future generations at a time when the current generation struggles to set meaningful measures of success.

Reach out, connect and share your stories, your frustrations and successes.   Like coals in the fire, staying connected with your teams will help you keep warm, keep the flames burning.   Although, you cannot do this physically there are opportunities to chart new paths and create new ways of staying connected   Clearly, the key measure of success in this season will be to survive and help as many as possible do the same.   Let’s also aim to grow through the challenges we face and be ready to thrive when the time comes to bear the fruits of our labours in due seasons to come.


Vigeo Partners Ltd is a leadership consultancy firm supporting leaders in schools to grow; ‘vigeo’: to thrive, to bear fruit, to live in honour.  We also work in association with #TeamADL 

One practical way we are supporting connectivity is to facilitate online School Leaders Network sessions.  They are free, weekly and aimed at helping school leaders worldwide connect and realise they are not alone.  Check out ‘Clear Heads’ events posted on Eventbrite.

For a more structured programme of support for your leadership teams through this season have a look at our programme #Virtual_SLT

Flyer grphic

@Leadership_Cole             office@vigeo.org.uk            www.coleandrew.co.uk




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