This is how we look when we lead

This post was written as part of a series of articles featured on Nourished Collective where the theme is described as ‘the intersection between women’s identities and leadership.’
Unfortunately, I missed the deadline so I am sharing it here. Do visit the Nourished Collective which is a community for ethical teachers and leaders, passionate about nourishing classrooms and corridors,  playgrounds and staff-rooms.


I have a reputation for always being co-ordinated in what I wear.
I have no idea where it came from, but I always wanted things to match – shoes, handbag, jewellery. Now you can add throws & scarves which have also become part of my ‘brand’. We often look back to our past & childhoods when looking for connections & if I think of my mother’s approach to fashion, it certainly did not come from her!
Looking back at photos of my first wedding (I have had 3!) I can’t imagine what possessed me to agree to her outfit & as for that handbag! It was a horror!
According to Gretchin Rubin’s ‘Four Tendencies’, I’m an Obliger which basically means I hold great store in what others think of me. Of course, that can be complicated by ‘what I think they think of me’ but that is probably another post. What it does mean is that what I look like on the outside is important to me as it builds my confidence & that, I suspect, did come from my mother. The evidence for this can be seen on a beautiful summer day at the end of my fourth year in secondary school. That would be Year 10 going into Year 11.
The headmaster called me into his office with my friend Susan & told us we were to be head & deputy head girls next year. I was delighted & as I didn’t live far & mother was at home that day, I rushed home to tell her the news at lunchtime. She was pleased (I think) but more importantly she got the ironing board out & ironed my dress so that when I went on the stage that afternoon as the head girl, I would be smart. So, the dye was set!
This approach to the ‘outside me’ applies to casual as well as formal wear & somehow, my wardrobe just developed that co-ordinated feel to it. I’m not even sure I consciously think about it, but I suppose it is something within me that just happens. Maybe it is a sense of thrift to make sure things can be linked together. Who knows?
As I moved into leadership, how I portrayed myself was key. I was older than many of my peers for a start & I felt I had time to make up. My love of colour & a passion for shoes helped set a format for how I showed the world ‘Julia the headteacher’. Small ‘high heels’ that somehow gave me a better posture were always used for special events when I wanted to be as confident as I could be.
One such occasion was the first day of my second headship. I had been forewarned about a group of parents that had been the bane of the school as their many children passed through. So, despite it being a beautiful, warm September morning, I wore my suit, tights & my heels. Inside I was so nervous, but they would never know! By the end of the day, I had removed my jacket but when I went out onto the playground to say goodbye to my new children, the heels were still on, giving me that ‘just in case’ confidence.
I know there are some of my colleagues on social media who will feel sad that this ‘Obliger’ appears to hold what is on the outside in such high esteem but let me reassure you that it is for me. It gives me confidence. It sets my mood & it has given those I work with something nice to look forward to!
As a school improvement office once commented ‘ We must be important because she has put her lippy on’

Damn right! It is important to ME!

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