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Permission to Remove Your Cape

School leaders are often dubbed superheroes. Considering the work you do which oftentimes seem miraculous in nature it’s no wonder the “honor” of a superhero is bestowed. Think about it - how many times have you been touted as Wonder Woman or Superman because of your tireless work and never-quit mentality? How may quotes have you read that likened a school leader’s ability to “do the work” and do it well - as superhuman? Let’s be honest, it can feel good at times to be recognized in that manner, after all, what you accomplish with your teams often feels like the work of a superhero. You should undoubtedly be proud of what you do.

Here’s something to consider as you continue your contribution to our high impact work… Even superheroes need a break. Even superheroes remove their capes. Think about it… Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman… none of them wear their cape through the entire movie. They too had “alternate” lives that provided them time to rest and be fully human. Indulge me in a brief analysis of a superhero from the past, while, not one with a cape, she is one with superhuman powers - The Bionic Woman. For those of you who are unfamiliar or need help remembering, the bionic woman was a super human character in a popular 70's television series. She was a “typical” human who was “recreated” to take on special high risk missions using her superhuman bionic powers. Her “suit of armor” included a bionic ear which enabled super hearing powers and extraordinary strength in her arms and legs. Like many other superheroes, the bionic woman solved many problems and successfully accomplished missions that her unique skill set supported.

Here’s the thing, even with her superhuman abilities the bionic woman had limitations. It’s true. Her legs exploded upon landing when she jumped from a particularly tall building nearly killing her. She had successfully completed so many high-risk missions that she failed to realize this limitation. She also discovered that extreme cold inhibited her bionic implants causing them to freeze and malfunction.There were other malfunctions such as crippling headaches and her body’s rejection to the implants. In the final episode of one season, the bionic woman’s body began to shut down during a mission and she landed on the operating table in critical condition.

What’s the significance of all of this? You. Yes, you are a hero to many in your school community. Yes, you do work miracles and support teams in accomplishing what often appears to be impossible feats. And yes - you too must learn your limitations and recognize malfunctions. No, I’m not referring to limiting your dreams or lowering your bar for excellence. I am referring to the need to know that even superheroes have limitations and need rest. Your need to know that you were not created to go on “high-risk” missions 24/7 without a break. You. Need. Rest.

You go to school and absorb professional development so that you can put on our suit of armor - the principalship or other leadership role. Like the bionic woman, you work tirelessly to serve your school communities (your "high-risk" missions). You engage in high stress demands of the role and press forward. The point - like the bionic woman, your work is important and you too have limitations (even when you choose to ignore them). You need to ensure you get enough rest so you can recharge and spring into action when duty calls.

When do you remove your cape or set aside your superhuman powers? When are you still enough to listen to your body and mind telling you to slow down? How do you recharge so that you are ready for each day's mission? How do you model this for your staff?

Here are 3 ideas to get you started even when schedules seem impossible:

  • Consider what gives you fuel. You may not be an eight-hour-a-night sleeper. It could be a cool down walk before you settle in for the evening. Whatever it is… schedule it just like you do that important meeting with your staff.

  • Commit to two nights each week where work stays in the office. Don’t take a single thing home on those nights - just your awesome self. Consider that your official cape removal for the week.

  • Find an accountability partner for “Cape Removal Nights.” Hold each other accountable for removing your cape. You each deserve it. Call your partner out as needed.

You are indeed a superhero for your school community. Be proud of that. Continue to lead with excellence and grace. AND … remember - you too have permission to remove your cape!

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