Where does the road of excess lead? Emotional Intelligence? Resonant Leadership?

"The Long, and Winding Road" source:istock

I truly live by William Blake’s famous quote, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” The problem is that road goes in two directions, with many turns, stops and hills. The road of excess can make you tired, stressed and dissonant. On the other hand, it can make you energized, healthy, and focused. As for the middle path, I don’t know much about that path. I do know that learning about Emotional Intelligence and Resonant Leadership has helped me tremendously.





We all have personal energy source:personal-energy jpeg

Emotional intelligence has been defined as the ability to recognize how leaders understand themselves and others (Goleman, et al., 2002). Leaders, including myself, are prime candidates for stress, weight issues, and health issues (Boyatzis & McKee, 2006). Using the concept of emotional intelligence, Boyatzis and McKee (2006) proposed that leaders utilize a process of renewal to deal with the sacrifices that have been inherent in today’s work world. When leaders do not renew themselves, they run the risk of becoming dissonant, and therefore, ineffective or burnt out.



Are you running on empty? source:energy_crisis jpeg

Ironically, being a principal causes a lot of stress and anxiety.  It also has an energizing effect, but these two forces do not always balance each other. Through much reflection, I have found that I am a potential candidate for Sacrifice Syndrome (Boyatzis & McKee, 2006). I tend to volunteer for activities even when my plate is full. I have a tough time declining opportunities because I feel that everything I do has the potential to benefit my professional growth and school community. In my world, there is always another mountain to climb. In the process, there are occasions when I become stressed out and continue to take on those potentially advantageous opportunities that end up becoming more detrimental to my well-being and supersede the intended beneficial outcomes.





When I am feeling well, I tend to be more charismatic and full of energy. I realize this because others point it out to me. “Hey Spike, you seem full of energy!” or “Wow, I wish I had your energy!” On the other hand, when I am stressed out, I have people tell me, “You look tired,” or “Is everything OK?” I am the kind of person who wears my emotions on my sleeve. In the fall, sometime after Thanksgiving, I knew I was deep in the cycle of sacrifice. I was tired all of the time. Although it took me a few weeks to get out, I was able to recognize, reflect and make the necessary changes to break that cycle. As a leader, I know that I must be awake, aware, and attentive. In order to achieve this, I need to adhere to a Cycle of Renewal (Boyatzis & McKee, 2006).

Henry and Daddy went for a snow run today. His idea!

Maintaining a Cycle of Renewal has become more difficult as I grow older and add more responsibilities to my plate. I used to run marathons, triathlons, and hike mountains. Since that time, I have fathered two children and earned both a masters and doctoral degree.  Plus, I became a principal. It has only been in the last year that I have truly committed myself to a new cycle of renewal. It has helped that the kids are more independent and out of diapers. I go to karate three days a week, eat as healthy as possible, meditate, and spend time with my family. I try to laugh, a lot. I like watching funny things on TV. I dance with my wife and children. We have competitions of all sorts. I listen to music and enjoy reading.


So now, I maintain two blogs, participate on twitter, and am a building principal (January 30, 2012 posts:  What is it like being a principal? Are you in meetings all day?). I know my colleagues wonder, “How does he do it?” As I stated earlier, I travel on the road of excess. On that road, I balance the cycle of sacrifice and the cycle of renewal. Want to learn more about the cycle of sacrifice, renewal or Emotional Intelligence? Here are some resources:













Reflective Practice: Looking into the mirror

Every Principal needs to look into the Reflective Mirror

The concept of Reflective Practice (Osterman & Kottkamp, 2004) has helped me balance my leadership as a new principal. The use of reflective practice provides me with the basis of how to become an effective principal by constantly asking questions and spending time reflecting. My natural tendency is to jump from one project to another without much thought. I used to ask myself, “What is the next thing for me to get involved with?” Now I ask myself, “What am I doing now?” and more importantly, “Why?”

One aspect of the reflective practice process has been the ability to value the input of others in decision making. I used to ask myself why I always need to seek input from others. Perhaps there have been decisions that could have been made on my own, but if I truly wanted to create a reflective environment for my school, I must have the trust that, even if I reveal myself as vulnerable, my staff would provide feedback. If someone betrays my trust, I have to believe it reflects more about them, not me.

One of the most influential books in my library

As a principal I have a vision of what my school should be. Whether I am at PTA function, Back to School Night, Faculty Meeting, or just casual conversation I see the school as the top performing elementary school in the county within five years. As a new principal, I have been forced to remain steadfast in this vision. Every day I am faced with a thousand reasons why we will not be the top performing school. Along the way, however, I have had to ask myself tough, reflective questions such as how does this problem reveal an opportunity? Knowing I cannot do this myself, who can I enlist to help? It is through these questions that I reflect and gain perspective.

I take a reflective approach when analyzing my leadership practices and it has made such a difference in my work products. In fact this blog serves as my reflective diary about my insights into learning. By taking the time to write about my experiences, I am implementing the reflective process technique. I know how I want to be viewed as a principal, but I also need to be able to articulate this to students, teachers, parents and other key stakeholders. Using reflective practice and asking myself tough questions forces me to confront my leadership as a mirror that reflects who I am and who I want to be. That is why the theme “Your Image is Our Image” is so fitting.

Want more information on Reflective Practice? Check out these links:




Osterman, K., & Kottkamp, R. (2004). Reflective practice for educators: Professional development to improve student learning (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.