Human emotions are contagious. School leaders’ emotions are particularly contagious because of their visibility within the school community. Their emotions can spread wordlessly from person to person throughout the school.
When principals and teacher leaders lament that they seem to have little influence, I remind them of the power of their emotional states to affect the entire school community, whether they intend it or not.
Leaders who are angry, cynical, anxious, or discouraged can infect the school community with their negative emotions. The downward flow of energy these emotions create what is called a “slow death spiral.”
School leaders who are enthusiastic, positive, hopeful, and have a general overall sense of well-being also infect the school community with those emotions. Researchers use the term “virtuous spiral” because of the way those emotions create a positive mood and add energy to the organization.
Researchers in the area of positive psychology say that there are two things leaders can do to cultivate their personal well-being, which, in turn, helps create a virtuous spiral within the school community:
• Practice gratitude by noting in writing at the end of the day three things for which they are grateful. Practicing this discipline for as little as six weeks has been shown to produce positive emotional effects.
• Consistently use their strengths to accomplish important goals. This is especially true when leaders apply their strengths to purposes larger than themselves, which, fortunately, is built into school leaders’ work.
Principals and teacher leaders benefit when they practice gratitude and consistently use their strengths. And so do others as an upward spiral of emotion and energy suffuses the school community.
Question: What do you do to authentically lift your mood for your benefit and that of others with whom you interact?