The Cost of Leadership

The Cost of Leadership

Thursday, 3 November 2016  | Narelle - MECS Principal
You might have seen the article a couple of weeks ago in The Age telling the tragic story of Principal Mark Thompson who committed suicide after years of built up pressure and stress.

In this report, academic Phil Riley from the Australian Catholic University, has found in an annual study that the rates of stress, depression and burnout among Australian principals are twice those of the general population. Sobering stuff for a school Principal to read!

The purpose of this article is not to elicit sympathy or support, (however, all donations of chocolate will be gratefully received), but to reflect on the challenge of leadership in all walks of life, whether it be in our chosen profession, in a voluntary capacity at our church, school or community group or even stepping into student leadership.
At a recent leadership planning day, twenty of our staff leaders reflected on a series of articles by Dr Ken Dickens, recently retired leader of the National Institute of Christian Education. In these articles he explores what it means to be a reluctant, reflective, responsive and revitalised leader. Let me briefly unpack each one.

Reluctant Leaders
The survival of authentic Christian schooling depends largely on the emergence of leaders. It will depend on leaders who see leadership in Christian schools not in terms of career advancement but in terms of costly service for the kingdom. However, they will refuse to pay the gods of workaholism and unrealistic expectations. They will find joy in serving their communities and they will find ways to share the burden, instead of just delegating tasks.

Reflective Leaders
The reflective leader needs to understand and articulate a clear and compelling vision. They need to think about what we do; how we do it and why we do it. This takes disciplined time and courageous self-examination. In an age of high demand and the unquestioned premium on efficiency, leaders need to create time and space to be reflective. They need to understand cultural assumptions and expectations so they won’t be governed by them… they need to read the world and the Word.

Responsive Leaders
Responsive leaders are attuned to trends and expectations. They identify and evaluate pressures and challenges. They are deeply aware of the organisation’s mission and seek to respond in the light of that directing purpose. They are prepared to refine and clarify the mission and adopt new faithful ways in pursuing the mission. Responsive leaders quickly acknowledge problems and potential problems and decisively and communally seek effective and authentic solutions.
Revitalised Leaders
A sustainable model of leadership begins with the recognition that leadership is a complex task and needs to be shared. Leaders sometime forget their human frailty and imagine that it is more spiritual to ‘burn out’ for the Lord… a more godly and loving approach is to care for ourselves so that we can keep serving the communities that God has called us to lead. Sustainable leadership is achieved through nurturing relationships and through solitude…by developing an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude…through a constant and humble walk with God.

At MECS, we need to pray for future leaders and perhaps be prepared to become one, whether it be in your role as staff member, parent or student!

The Executive and broader leadership group hopefully model an example of sustainable leadership. We certainly work hard as ‘kingdom workers’ but we try and get the balance right. We want to be a place that nurtures and supports others to step into leadership. We want to be leaders that reflect on the right things and respond in wisdom to the challenges and opportunities that come our way. We want to be an authentic and relevant voice in the Christian community and in Christian education, firm in our vision, but confident in exploring and adopting new ways for the future.

But most importantly, we want to be leaders in a school that has its roots firmly established in God and his ways. People who live, work and fellowship in community; but also seek the solitude of God’s presence. People who are thankful and grateful for all that God provides, who have this perspective even when things are hard, relationships strained and times are tough. People who serve others and walk humbly with God… constantly. 

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