PMP236: What to do When You Feel Restless in Leadership

Spring time brings new opportunities. For some educators, it is a time of year when you may start feeling a little restless.

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Perhaps you will be considering new candidates for openings at your school. Or maybe you will be looking at new possibilities for your own leadership journey. In a previous podcast episode, Jen Schwanke and I led a discussion on spring hiring, and we had questions and feedback from several listeners. This week, we wanted to circle back with a follow-up conversation, including responses to the following:

Feedback from a Listener

One listener wrote in with this great reflection: “I really thought that the Principalship would be my last stop before retirement, but I am getting restless. I am not sure if it is because the Principal role has turned out not to be the ‘dream job’ that I thought it would be. It is difficult to tell during this pandemic. This is my third year as the Principal of my building and 8th year in the same building. I loved every day as Assistant Principal, but I am just not feeling that same joy now.”

“Listening to you and Jen has really made me focus my search and consider where I can add value in my current school district or surrounding districts. It made me laugh when Jen told her story about applying for the HR position. I feel the same way about interviewing, and I almost submitted my name for an HR administrator vacancy. I realized after listening to you that HR would not be a good fit for me.”

What do you do when you feel restless in your work? 

Here are several ideas Jen and I discuss (listen to the full episode for more context):

  • As you think about the new semester, you may be looking at opportunities for movement or change. As you do, be careful not to search for ‘joy’ when searching for a job. Joy is not sustainable all the time in any work. First, you have to look for the right fit in your work and life – find the consistent behaviors that help you flourish. Then make that fit in whatever setting you find yourself.
  • In addition, look to see ‘where the hole is’ and fill it. Are you bored? Are restless because you don’t feel supported or respected? Are you feeling disconnected from colleagues? Look at the root causes to see if those issues can be pro-actively addressed before making a big move.
  • Especially during a pandemic, be careful not to overreact the temporary pressures that have been a part of this difficult school year.
  • Another component to keep in mind is that your teachers are feeling this way too. Most educators share something in common right now: there is just not as much joy without assemblies, parties, and moments to meet without masks. But keep in mind, you have also made school work with new lessons learned. That’s a different kind of joy – realizing the lessons learned through difficult times.
  • Finally, ask yourself what self-care practices do you employ when you feel you are at your best. Focus on the practices that work for you when things are not so crazy, and give yourself permission to re-engage with those actions now. You may be surprised that some of the ups and downs you experience are significantly influenced by those daily practices and routines.

Let’s Wrap This Up

If you are searching for a new position in the months ahead, you may also benefit from listening to Principal Matters Episode 232: Looking for a New Education Position, where Jen and I unpack more practical steps to keep in mind in your search for the right fit.

Now It’s Your Turn

What questions do you have about your own search or next move? Reach back by email with questions at What is one step you can take today to ‘fill the missing hole’ in your own self-care that may help you finish out the semester with more inspiration and joy?

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker