Sometimes I think I know how Pocahontas and John Rolfe felt. Their marriage was a strategic one, cementing an important relationship for both of their peoples. However, by marrying into a different culture, they each became more foreign to their own. Their lives became characterized by an anthropological concept known as liminality, that period during a rite of passage when a person is transitioning from one status but has not yet reached the new one; metaphorically having a foot in each world but not fully belonging to either.
For me the analogy is an apt one for heads of school who must straddle the internal and external realms of education—continually scanning the wider world while simultaneously staying connected to, and rooted in, their own. Spend too much time looking outward and the head risks losing touch with the reality of daily life at his or her own school. Spend too much time looking inward and the head risks myopia, missing important changes in the broader educational landscape and, as a result, various opportunities for the school’s development.
My approach is to stay connected internally by doing Hands-to-Work, substituting as Administrator on Duty, going to games, and visiting classes, while continuing to look outward by reading everything I can about education, HR, finance, strategy, and marketing. I’ll also start asking other leaders how they manage to do the same.