Try a little Tenderness (7 steps to being a Compassionate Leader)


“It’s not just sentimental, no, no, no
She has her grief and care, yeah yeah yeah
But the soft words, they are spoke so gentle, yeah
It makes it easier, easier to bear, yeah”

                                                                                                         Otis Reading

I posted a tweet today then I went out with my boys. We had some swinging in trees to do. I came back to find that my rather old and outdated phone was in some kind of meltdown.

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I’ll be honest it was meant to be in response to this tweet from @FloraBarton I had just had a tagging failure. It happens I am getting on a bit.


I have received loads of responses to the tweet, some talk about how brilliant their Heads and SLT are and how they have created a climate that treats people as people and supports them when it’s needed. Others meanwhile have shared horror stories similar to mine, where school is put before life and the priorities are completely wrong. I was shocked by the number of people who have been shown a complete lack of compassion.

Now don’t get me wrong I know how difficult it can be when people are off. Filling those gaps, covering those classes can drive you to distraction. That doesn’t mean we should lose sight of the people who need that time and the reasons they need it. The first thing I want to say is that it is just a job. A great job, an important job but ultimately just a job. We should never put it before life, and we should never expect our teachers to do that either. As leaders we need to remember that. At the end of the day as Vic Goddard put it just now…

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Personally I have always been the kind of person who commits fully to the place they work in. I will be there on the Bingo nights. I’ll be the person who takes children to sports events on a Saturday. Residentials..count me in. That’s the nature of me I suppose. Not everybody can be that person or is that person. Sometimes I probably should have been more selfish. However when the incident with my son occurred I became a different person in that school, my goodwill was lost, If I’m honest there is no way I could have taught on that day anyway. My relationship with that head and the respect I had for them was forever damaged by her actions.

At the end of the day people come in to teach, we all know school is often more but I would totally say it’s an unfair expectation to expect the same commitment from everyone. At different points we can offer more or less of ourselves to the place where we work and that is OK.

Equally Leadership needs to be compassionate. It needs to give back and it needs to trust. I have spoken with a number of teachers who feel completely un-trusted. For me trust is key and most of the time is always paid back. If you are compassionate and support them I guarantee at some point they will repay it back to you.

7 tips for Leaders

  1. Know your staff and what is going on with them.
  2. Listen.
  3. Put yourself in their shoes, (step back and ask the question  “What if that were me?”)
  4. Don’t just take but give back. (we give days in lieu for residential stays…I am the person who gets in class and covers it.)
  5. Let them know that their life and family is important. (performances, sports days, graduations etc. these things only happen once, be flexible, let staff know their life is valued. There should only be one answer to the question “Can I go…?)
  6. Step outside the inconvenience and be human
  7. Value their lives as much as you do the lives of the children in your school (As a head they are really your class)

Anyway back to my important bit…


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