Headmaster's Blog

Leadership Part 1/4

In a lifetime you accumulate wisdom, friends and enemies. Retirement (at least for a few weeks) is not too far away and so here are a few tips on the subject of leadership. By way of qualification, my PhD was on the topic of leadership (and I passed) so these tips do come with the support of a group of academics who thought the message worth more than a passing glance.


I can save you the pain of reading over one hundred thousand words of PhD thesis. My view is that there are three characteristics to continue to measure leadership against. They have become the overarching paradigm for me in seeking to navigate complex and ambiguous situations. I have not always managed to keep these in perspective but they have still made a helpful ready-reckoner from time to time on where things are travelling (mostly when things go pear-shaped).


To keep it simple, there are three characteristics to focus on in my view:
(i). Be a Servant Leader;
(ii). Be an Authentic Leader;
(iii). Be a Situational Leader


i) Servant Leadership:
This seems like a crazy contradiction. How can you be a leader and at the same time be a servant? Popular culture would dictate that servants serve bosses and bosses boss around servants. But what if leadership began with a vision for the future and, at the same time, the consideration of the dreams, hope and aspiration of those being led? What if it was clear to all that the stakeholders were just as important as the infrastructure? People AND Product. Mr Croger, our Deputy Headmaster, is a good example of a servant leader. In this I learn of him. A servant leader treats the child in Transition with the same respect and affection as a teacher, an office worker or a Prime Minister. All are equally loved by God. This is a good paradigm for any business but essential at WAC. A Christian could ask – What would it look like if God walked amongst us? We don’t have far to look. Jesus said, in Matthew 20:28 28 “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


ii) Authentic Leadership:
Don’t try to be somebody else in leadership. Learn about leadership from others, even pinch a few things that work and ask lots of questions along the way, but in the end, you must learn to be the leadership version of yourself: it’s too difficult to be someone else. Don’t expect perfection or you will be often disappointed but stick by the ethics, morals, principles and virtues that shape your character. My brother, Evan, is an authentic leader. He sticks by his principles. In that I learn of him. His authenticity saw him promoted again and again in the NSW Police Force. Despite humble beginnings, and even more humble grades, he is now the Police Commander of the Wollongong Region. A Christian should try to be consistently authentic. Romans 12:2. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.


iii) Situational Leadership:
Don’t try to find a style of leadership and rigidly follow it. Style can be flexible according to the situation – authenticity should not. Good leaders have a different style in different situations with different people. In a school context, the leader should be firm and clear with students yet collaborate with colleagues. Sometimes, even this should be reversed. The inner, authentic you, can be present when the situation calls for authoritative or collegial leadership; transformational or transactional leadership; strategic or laconic leadership.


Over the next three weeks, I will share some day to day tips. All are different, but all fit the leadership framework of –


Servant, Authentic, Situational