Leading the Independent Schooling Sector

February 21, 2021

David’s Leadership Insights and Takeaways for People on Leadership Journeys

What trends are emerging in the leadership of Independent Schools as we move into this decade? This episode will be of interest to those pursuing a leadership career in the Education Sector, and in particular, leadership in the Independent Schooling Sector.  
David Robertson, ExecutiveDirector, Independent Schools Queensland, shares his reflections, insights and takeaways from a lengthy leadership career in the Independent Schooling Sector in two States.  
David brings a unique lens to the future of leadership in the education sector and its journeyman, technology.
Stay True to Your WHY
  • In your early years, seek to gain new skills, knowledge and experience in pursuit of your goals.
  • If you experience a disconnect between the opportunity available and where you want to take your career be prepared to pivot.
  • Remain authentic and true to your values as you build your career. Acknowledge most people want to bring their best self to their work, and through your leadership, facilitate their development.
  • David always found his driver was to be of service to the community.


Pivots Can Take Your Leadership Career into Surprising Roles
  • View each opportunity through the lens of leadership development.  
  • What skills, knowledge and experience are you adding to your existing platform?
  • What did you learn in previous roles that can inform your current role?


Don’t be Afraid to Stretch into a Sector That is Entirely New to You
  • Leadership is not ‘Sector Specific’.
  • Leading organisations is about leading people, and a good leader can lead across sectors, facilitating the best outcomes through trusting and transparent relationships.
  • Reflections on currently emerging changes to the Education Sector


Emerging Changes to Leading in Schooling
  • Schooling is experiencing rapid changes occurring following the year of COVID-19 in 2020 and this pace of change will continue as we navigate new technology and ways of engaging with our school communities.
  • Leading schools is more challenging and demanding than ever due to heightened transparency and greater parental demands.
  • ‘UBER Education Moment’ is coming– there will be fast paced changes driven by accessibility and technology.
  • Historically School Principals might have been 20 to 30 years leading a school.  Now School Principals may come in from other Sectors, because of the generic nature of leadership.  These leaders will be more  mobile and stay in a role for 5 years or so before moving to the next role.  Constant refreshing of leadership in the sector.
  • Embrace and shape change – be influential and get to the front of the change.

Staying the Course – Looking after Yourself
  • In responding to the huge demands that can be placed on leaders, it is easy to become all-consumed by work.
  • When we are always ‘on’, our mental and physical health suffers and our quality of work and home life falls.
  • Take time-out from an issue to reflect more broadly on how you are looking after yourself.  Don’t become so enmeshed in an issue at work that it consumes you to the detriment of your health and wellbeing.
  • Set up a trust system with one or more people in your team who will tap you on the shoulder if they observe you are falling back into unhealthy patterns of work that may impact your health.
  • At home, remember to ‘clock off’ from work.  Go for walks, go to the gym, do things that take your mind away from work so you can replenish your energy and remain mentally and physically healthy.

Three main takeaways for those on Leadership Journeys in the Context of COVID

Be Prepared for Anything
  • Don't assume 'business as usual'. Scan your environment and be adaptable in the face of unexpected changes. Be ready for the unexpected.
  • Think ahead, what unlikely scenarios might play out that will impact your organisation’s exposure to risk? How will you manage or mitigate this risk?  
Core Values and Objectives Rule
  • Be guided by your organisation’s core values core objectives.  Even in the face of a pandemic, come back to the core purpose and objectives of the organisation. What is our charter? How do we navigate the current situation and remain true to our organisation's values and objectives?
  • Leadership characteristics: Feel a passion for what you do. Good leaders can translate their leadership skills across many sectors - leadership skills are highly transferrable.
Organisations are about People
  • In the year of COVID, Teachers have been front and centre as they navigated our children through homeschooling. School leaders, and indeed all leaders today are often weighed down by compliance and the business demands of leading an organisation. Contemporary school leaders will embrace technology and integrate it into education and business systems to manage the growing demands.
  • Organisations are about people, and leadership is about bringing the best out in our people.
  • The current pandemic remains with us, and in the face of ongoing change in response to COVID, our staff are our most valuable asset. Value them.