How Leaders Can Cope With the Unexpected

Ron Williamson

The previous 2 years have actually included unpredictability to the task– rapid changes in expectations for student security, constructing tidiness, or perhaps moves to and from remote learning. Changes frequently arise quickly, produce turmoil and instability, and need resolution.

School leaders hold one of the most unsure and unpredictable jobs in our nation. Every principal we know has actually dealt with the unexpected.

How do you deal with the unanticipated? Weve chosen advice from both instructional and business resources and recommend these 6 actions (Cannon, 2022; Hunt, 2020; Vilhauer, 2016).

Barbara Blackburn

By Ronald Williamson and Barbara R. Blackburn

Despite the finest company and making use of a schedule, the day might become topsy-turvy at any time. It may be an urgent phone call, a disciplinary crisis, some inappropriate class activity, a go to from an upset moms and dad, or the crash of the schools online knowing platform.

Accept the Unexpected

Unexpected occasions are just that, unforeseen. Ones ability to deal with the unpredictability and uncertainty that chooses such events typically shapes the response. You cant get ready for every potential issue, however you can establish the capability to react successfully when the unexpected happens.

Some leaders cope successfully with unforeseen events. Some leaders actually take pleasure in the work of fixing brand-new difficulties.

Start with Your Attitude

As they state, mindset is everything. When unexpected things happen, thats definitely real. Life has plenty of surprises, and its important to acknowledge and accept that they belong to a leaders life.

Unexpected occasions, while unanticipated, supply an opportunity to develop an excellent outcome and a positive experience. While ones attention may shift to the unforeseen event, an effective leader quickly rotates to discovering an option and developing a strategy for attending to the issue.

A positive mindset constantly helps. Not all unexpected occasions are negative and not all are detrimental to your schools purpose. Often unanticipated events end up being a chance to solve an enduring problem or offer with an issue thats been overlooked. Your mindset will shape how you approach the problem and the steps you require to handle it.

Trust Yourself and Your Abilities

When the unanticipated happens, it is simple to focus on unfavorable ramifications and how the occasion may alter your strategies. Instead of doing that, the most effective leaders trust that things can and will turn out well. While they handle something they didnt anticipate, they trust their abilities to establish a plan for addressing the issue and adjust as required.

An unexpected occasion frequently supplies an opportunity for leaders to demonstrate how they deal with pressure and to model the sort of reaction they desire from others in their school or organization. Expect your strategy to effectively deal with the problem.

Pause Before Acting

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Successful leaders find that individuals are less likely to comply if you dont appear to be calm and in control. So, pause, consider the choices, and develop a thoughtful strategy.

While some events might require immediate action, numerous take advantage of taking a moment or 2, or a day or more, to react. The secret is to be made up and have actually a thought about action. Never worry and act rashly.

Frequently we hang around worrying about the factor something happened rather than working to correct the issue. Concentrate on establishing a strategy, a remedy, instead of putting or identifying blame.

When the leader acts rather than responds, issues are most effectively solved. Pausing and taking time to believe prior to acting can minimize the possibility of an emotional reaction, and will more than likely result in a better plan.

That includes you and those you work with or serve. Part of an effective response is frequently forgiving yourself, and others, for things that they might have done differently.

Speak with Others

That doesnt suggest you must do that all by yourself. Singular leaders are hardly ever effective. Collective leaders far more so.

Leaders frequently believe unforeseen events need them to show their management and act quickly. As we kept in mind previously, there is worth in stopping briefly before acting, taking some time to gather realities and to create a determined reaction.

Often an individually discussion isnt appropriate. Lots of leaders preserve a journal where they assess occasions and discuss what has actually occurred. Referencing our reflection journals when the unanticipated happens can be soothing and reassuring and spark concepts that cause services.

Take time to seek advice from with others. They may have skills or details that may assist solve the problem.

Gradually, successful leaders develop a cadre of trusted friends and colleagues with whom they can talk, share issues, and consult. Unforeseen occasions are often the right time to get in touch with that cadre. You may want someone who will listen to your issue, ask clarifying questions, or deal honest recommendations about your plans.

Learn and examine

Some leaders cope successfully with unexpected occasions. Unforeseen occasions are simply that, unanticipated. Frequently unanticipated events end up being an opportunity to resolve an enduring issue or offer with a problem thats been overlooked. While ones attention may shift to the unexpected occasion, a successful leader quickly rotates to finding an option and developing a strategy for attending to the issue.

Last Thoughts


After every unexpected event, take time to reflect on what took place. Talk with trusted coworkers or journal your ideas. Determine elements that contributed to the occasion, how you handled it, and ways it might be managed differently.

Dr. Ronald Williamson is Professor Emeritus of Educational Leadership at Eastern Michigan University. He is a previous principal, main office administrator and executive director of the National Middle School Association (now AMLE). The author of numerous books on leadership, he is the co-author with Barbara R. Blackburn of Leadership for Remote Learning ( 2021) and 7 Strategies for Improving Your School ( 2020 ), both from Routledge/Eye On Education.

An unanticipated occasion often supplies a chance for leaders to demonstrate how they deal with pressure and to model the sort of response they desire from others in their school or organization.

Hunt, S. (2020 ). A plan for handling the unexpected in work. Abilities You Need. Obtained at

Vilhauer, J. (2016 ). 4 ways to endure unanticipated scenarios. Psychology Today.

Use the reflection as an opportunity to recognize and expand your leadership abilities and save away valuable recommendations for your future self.

Dr. Barbara R. Blackburn, a “Top 30 Global Guru in Education,” is a bestselling author of over 25 books and an in-demand expert. She was an award-winning professor at Winthrop University and has actually taught students of any ages. In addition to speaking at conferences worldwide, she routinely presents on-site and virtual workshops for instructors and administrators. Barbara is the author of Rigor in the Remote Learning Classroom: Instructional Tips and Strategies from Routledge/Eye On Education.

Every unexpected event is okay. Our initial response is often to see them as invasive and disruptive. It can be hard to see them as an opportunity. Thats why its so important for leaders to maintain a positive attitude, trust in their own skills, and take time to develop a thoughtful response to events.

Cannon, K. (2022 ). 8 Ways to Manage Unexpected Events and Keep Cool. The Coolist.

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