One of my favorite TV shows is Downton Abbey, and one of my all-time favorite lines is when Carson (the head butler) says, “Heavy lies the head that wears the crown.” When he says this to Mrs. Hughes (the head housekeeper), I think she rolls her eyes and pops back with, “Oh my, I didn’t know you were such royalty,” or something like that. It’s why I like the show. Lots of drama.
I’ve thought a lot about that line. Leadership can feel heavy. It gives you many things to worry about, and it can make you feel like you are the only one who bears the weight. This can be so lonely. In my leadership experiences, I can’t always say I’ve handled this well. In fact, there have been times when I’ve been really lousy at handling the pressure of leadership and the isolation that can come with it.
You Can’t Do Both
I remember my first big job in leadership when I was the assistant principal at a large elementary school. I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew how to teach, but I didn’t know how to lead other teachers. I worried that I was too young to lead. Many of the other staff members had been teaching for years and had a lot more experience than I did.
My first meeting with the other administrators was a disaster. I dropped my purse and the contents spilled out in front of everyone. Most of the other principals were men—older men. I felt like I didn’t fit in. I was too afraid to talk because I felt like I had nothing important to say. I sat alone and I left feeling miserable.1