How Helpful Are the Beliefs You Currently Hold as a Leader?

Sunday, 10th April, 2016

Which beliefs do you hold about your capabilities as a leader (whether that’s subject leader, project leader, team leader, key stage leader or school leader)?

Are your beliefs about your leadership abilities clear, or a little fuzzy?

Do you believe you’re an OK leader, a good leader, a confident leader … which words and phrases do you use when you think (or talk) about yourself in your leadership role?

Our beliefs about ourselves can hugely impact how we behave and perform in different situations.

Some of our beliefs can be to our advantage …

  • I am a positive and supportive team leader
  • I can be assertive during difficult conversations with colleagues
  • I can do this (whatever ‘this’ is!)

And some can be less helpful …

  • I’m lousy at leading team meetings
  • I’ll never make Vice Principal / Deputy Head
  • I’m going to be really nervous in the interview. I won’t be able to do my best

Beliefs aren’t facts, although we may treat them as such. They can come from one event / experience, or several experiences. Sometimes just one negative experience can limit our future actions, and beliefs about what we can achieve. What if that experience was a key part of your leadership role, or part of developing your leadership skills?

Personal Experience

Several years ago, when I was a Maths Co-ordinator, I was given the opportunity to present a new initiative I had developed in the classroom – to a group of teachers from a variety of schools across the local authority. I believed in the initiative, but I had less belief in my abilities as a presenter, and took this limiting belief into the presentation … with the kind of results you may expect!

At first I fought off the nerves, then doubt crept into my head, and it overtook me. My mouth dried up, I couldn’t think clearly, and I kept pausing to regain my thoughts. My audience were very kind, and listened patiently until I’d finished; some even asked questions – at which point some of my earlier confidence returned.

This experience could have put me off speaking to groups for the rest of my teaching career, and beyond. I gave myself a hard time afterwards, each time I thought about it, but once that subsided I realised I couldn’t do anything about it. In order to get over it I then needed to create opportunities to achieve success at this type of activity. Very few people do something perfectly the first time around, so I started telling myself that I’d do better next time.

About a year later, and after putting myself in ‘public speaking’ situations again, I got the job as  Primary Maths Consultant, much of which meant delivering large group training, planning and delivering staff meetings, and doing demonstration maths lessons in other teachers’ classrooms. Over the next couple of years my self-belief grew (fed by my successes). I am now a lot more confident speaking to groups, delivering trainings, etc., and now make a living doing it!

Much of the success here was to do with what I believed I was capable of, and the kind of positive things I said to myself.

Think-Feel-Behave 1Think – Feel – Behave

How you think affects how you feel, which affects how you behave, so why not take more control today over what you think about yourself as a leader.

Even if you don’t totally believe it at the moment – by acting as if you do, the positive feedback you get from your actions will increase your belief that you can do/achieve whatever you want.

Try this task …

1. Start by listing all the beliefs you have about yourself, particularly those that affect you in your leadership role, e.g.

  • I am a good listener
  • I am well organised
  • I’m not good at remaining calm in stressful situations
  • I’ll never be able to persuade (Nora) to take on board this change without a lot of resistance

2. Now list them under 2 headings – Helpful Beliefs and Limiting or Unhelpful Beliefs.

3. Rephrase any unhelpful beliefs into more useful, productive ones, which will serve you well as a leader. Put them under the Helpful Beliefs heading, e.g.

From: “I’m bound to get RI again in my next lesson observation.”

To: “I know from my feedback what I can already do well; I just need to improve ‘X’ and ‘Y’ to help me move from RI to Good.”

4. Now add any other beliefs that would be useful to have – under the Helpful Beliefs heading. Word them as if you can already do them, e.g.

“I can find the right words/phrases when faced with an aggressive parent, to help me stay calm and focused.”

5. Take one of the beliefs you’ve created in 3. or 4. above, and decide which actions you can take that will increase your skills and success for this area.

E.g. “I can find the right words/phrases when faced with an aggressive parent …”

Action 1: Look up examples of assertive phrases and behaviours.

Action 2: Try them out firstly in less threatening situations, so that I can embed them for when I really need to use them.

6. Finally, repeat #5 with other beliefs from 3 and 4.

At the end of each day, when you’re reflecting on how the day went (e.g. on your journey home), pay attention to your beliefs about yourself that day.

Which were helpful, and which weren’t? 

What will you do about the latter tomorrow?


Tdebbie019 fhank you for taking time to read this blog.

I’m Debbie Inglis, a performance coach, mentor and trainer, working across the UK and Internationally with Heads, Principals, School leaders and their teams to maximise leadership performance, create more effective, confident, and motivated teams … in a way that brings out the best in them.

If you’re interested in my services, please get in touch, and you can read more here.