Leaders’ wellbeing: What tools and strategies will enable increased wellness?

Year: 2018

Author: Anstee, Gillian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The wellbeing of principals and leaders in schools directly influences their ability to operate effective schools. Principals in all schools have key management roles and take responsibility for successful educational outcomes (social, performance, sporting and academic) of students and the wellness of students, staff and parents. The role of school leaders is increasingly complex (Feser, Mayol, & Srinivasan, 2014; Wildy & Clarke, 2008). Research exists regarding student or learner wellbeing (John-Akinola & Gabhainn, 2015), and teacher wellbeing (Paterson & Grantham, 2016; Renshaw, Long, & Cook, 2015). Highlighted is that the majority of this work relates to programs which support and inform students, parents and teachers about resilience and mental health. Thus, the exploration of wellness for leaders is timely and highly legitimate.
This presentation examines the enabling and inhibiting factors that impact on the wellness of leaders in schools in Australia. What tools and strategies will enable increased wellness? How can these strategies be added to the working day? Research with 39 Australian school principals that involved interviews is shared. The project developed a theoretical model, the socio-ecological wellbeing framework (Anstee, 2018), to assist current leaders to assess pathways to create improved and increased professional wellness. Leaders’ self-imposed actions for improved wellness are enumerated.
This study contributes to the knowledge of factors affecting leaders’ wellness, the ways leaders create and utilise practical strategies and provides significant insights to assist newly appointed leaders. It looks at reflection (using journals, and organisational tools) and renewal (the importance of place, forest bathing, mindfulness, meditation, contemplation, prayer, mantras, and friendships) and how current leaders implement these. Contribution is made to a broader understanding of the issues and gives direction to policy makers, associations and governing bodies to ensure reduced risk to the leaders in our schools. Increased formal accountability for wellbeing of leaders is explicated. This is particularly timely as current media coverage highlights negligence in this area (Riley, 2017), a possible future domain of increased litigation. Policy and practice is in need of change illuminating the need to remove the rhetoric and replace with best practice.