Holidays in both the Southern and Northern hemisphere – yay, although there was a much shorter break in the north. But there was some time to ditch the work persona and wardrobe. To become something else – parent, party goer, movie audience, just another shopper.
Most of the leaders in our survey told us that their wardrobe changes when they are away from school. Well OK. Not entirely all. Some leaders continued to wear much the same thing on the weekend as they did during the week. But for the most part, shedding the jacket was part of signalling that school leaders were Not Working.
However, we know from research that this is not actually true. School leaders do a lot of work when they are at home. Regardless of whether they are still in business dress or changed into comfortable trackies and slippers or jeans and a tee shirt, school leaders keep working long after the school bell.
The failure to separate leisure from work is a characteristic of professional life according to Christena Nippert Eng. Studying staff in a laboratory, Eng showed that technical staff were much more successful at separating work from the rest of their life than their professional scientist bosses. Scientists not only worked in home offices but also often had work-related ‘stuff’ spread out all over the house – kitchen table, bedroom, lounge room. Sound familiar?
Eng’s insight is helpful for our wardrobe study as it suggests that work clothing is not associated with all of the work of leading, and is in fact only needed for part of the total. The part where you have to be on display as a leader. The part where you represent the school. The part where you are, as many of our survey respondents told us, a role model for students. The part where you have to signal “I’m at work”, not on holiday.
But the actual job of leading goes on long after the jacket has been hung up.