The Reflection Pool

Living in the Tension

Ambiguity. Uncertainty. Not knowing.

Image courtesy of Pakorn at
Image courtesy of Pakorn at

All these arrive in times of transition. Whether we await the appointment of a new leader, or we wonder what a major decision and its effect will be on our day to day work, we feel that tension as we are suspended between what was and what will be.

Sometimes these feelings arise when we wonder about next steps or what our personal or work lives will look like in a week, a month or in a year.

Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher, said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

Living in that tension can be very difficult for some.  In an effort to feel better, individual leaders can push more strongly for action – any action – or move to a fixed problem solving orientation. While there might not seem to be an issue with that on the surface, quick action or decision making can lead to unintended precedents which may cause damage in the long run.

An effective leader is comfortable with uncertainty. She reacts calmly and carefully because she knows that it is part of life. Such leaders can continue to focus on what’s important and necessary while not knowing all the answers or how things may turn out.  Instead of focussing on what we don’t know, we focus on what we do know. Our certainty as school and classroom leaders can be found in what we value and believe.

What and who do you value as a school leader? What is important to preserve in these times of tension? Let that be your certainty.