Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with
helps you in your leadership.
Name: AnneMarie Maw
Title: Principal - St Agatha's Clayfield
Organisation: Brisbane Catholic Education
Anne-Marie has been working in primary schools for 25 years. Having started her career in country New South Wales, Anne-Marie has since taught in the inner west and northern beaches of Sydney as well as Ontario, Canada. She is currently Principal of St Agatha's Primary School Clayfield in Brisbane's Northern suburbs. In her spare time Anne-Marie enjoys volunteering in her community, walking her dog and pilates.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
The most challenging aspect of leadership is patience. Your impact as a leader is determined by those who follow. In a school setting, whilst wanting to move forward it's important to recognise not everyone will be on board or even care straight away, if at all.
It is important to give time and space for people to be part of the process and still move forward. It is a delicate dance of knowing how much to push and when you have pushed too far.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was in my 5th year of teaching when an opportunity came up to take on an acting role on the school leadership team. I am forever grateful for that opportunity and the learning that came with it.
My principal at the time was an incredible mentor and someone who I still consider the best I've ever worked with.
I then stepped into different leadership roles for the next 18 years in various schools in SydneyandBrisbane, always at the deputy level. I finally decided to make the jump to Principal in September 2019.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I wake up very early, usually between 4:30 and 5am. I find the mornings are the best time and I am most productive. I make a coffee and take the dog for a walk whilst I listen to a podcast or an audio book. I have a habit of listening to audio books at 1.6 speed so I can get through them quicker. I get to work around 7am and try to push out as much of the important stuff I can early.
The next 8-10 hours are a blur of meetings, playground duties, visiting classrooms and whatever else may pop up during the day. My finish time is dependent on whether there is a nmeeting in the evening or not. I will have a meeting usually one or two nights a week.
In those instances I stay at school otherwise I head home around 5pm, grab the dog and go to pilates. The dog loves going to the studio and often sniffs at people's socks and then falls asleep in a corner.
Evenings are a mix of relaxing or catching up with people. My friends know though that the second it hits 8:30pm I'm out. Early to bed and early to rise is definitely my preferred way of working!
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Everyone has their own perception of you so stand up for yourself and what you believe in. There have been a few times recently where I feel I have felt unfairly represented.
Normally I would just brush it off and move on, however, I've started started standing up for myself. It doesn't come naturally and I can still feel my hands shake and my eyes prickle when I speak up but I believe it's important. I can't expect others to stand up for me if I'm not doing it myself.
It's a matter of professional self respect to speak up politely and directly when you believe that you are being misunderstood, misinterpreted or misrepresented.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Change Your Questions, Change Your Life' by Marilee Adams. This book has helped me build an inquiry mindset and recognise when I am making a judgement and closing off my thinking. I recommend this book to everyone!
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
To use the words of Brene Brown "lead through who you are". It is wonderful to pick up ideas, tips, tricks and hacks from people who are experienced but remember that there is only one of you. What you bring to the table as a leader will be through your lens, that is why you were chosen.
As a principal in my first year, I decided to pay for a coach outside of my organisation. I found a fantastic coach through LinkedIn who was based in Victoria and had no connection to Brisbane Catholic Education.
It was an essential investment and one I would recommend to anyone starting in a principal role. I had a monthly meeting via Zoom with my coach and I was able to work through any issues I was having in a productive, supportive and confidential way.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Probably the one that sticks with me most is the way everyone banded together during covid. I had been Principal for 4 months and had a brand new Deputy Principal.
We were getting to know one another whilst working out how to navigate the unfolding health crisis. The way our staff worked together to make the switch to online learning at short notice was incredible.
The resilience of staff and ability of our teachers to continue to provide best possible learning for students whilst managing their own health and family concerns had me in awe. Our community worked together and did their best to support one another.
Rather than one meaningful story there were countless stories that shared a similar theme, we are a team, we are a family and we will do our best for our community.