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Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with

Eric L Dustman, PhD

helps you in your leadership.

Eric L Dustman, PhD

Eric L Dustman, PhD

Name: Eric L Dustman, PhD

Title: Head of School

Organisation: Montessori School of Maui

Eric Dustman is a researcher, consultant, writer, and independent school head. While immersed in efforts to develop schools and people over the last 30 years, he has sought to gain a greater personal understanding of empathy in children; the value of communication in relationships and connection; and to support adult learners as they extend their abilities in different capacities. His wife and three children have joined him on world-wide adventures, all the while seeking to grow as individuals and as a family. Their support of one another and collective interests to chase whatever opportunities present themselves, have led to life on three continents and one small island. His pride overflows.

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

This is an interesting question. Depending on the time of year and the circumstances, there is a great deal that is challenging. Over my 30 year career, I have found the most challenging thing as a leader to do is to maintain my momentum. So many factors run counter to school functionality and as such, much is required of an individual. Even the most proactive person can become reactive, necessitated by things out of immediate control, and that hinders momentum.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I was an architecture student when I entered college. Still love it and am often drawn in, but a girl introduced me to Montessori education. After some years in the classroom, I moved toward administration. I have found a great deal of success as a leader. Considering myself as both a transformative and collaborative leader, I have used these professional attributes to connect with people in every school role, to support their buy-in, and to usher them alongside me to a point where kids win. When they do, we do too.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I am a routine person starting at 5:00am. From readiness to relaxation in the morning, I want silence and my espresso to enjoy my read of the NYT Brief. I'm at school first (another espresso), then I greet kids, families, and staff. I make a point to touch base with everyone in the office. I then am on campus making certain to stop and take time in each classroom space. Again, touching base. Once the day closes, I say goodbye at alternating gates or wherever I can make contact. Then, I'm home for a shower, dinner, and bed. If I'm lucky I can get some reading in. If I'm really lucky, I can stay up until 8:00pm, although that doesn't mean I don't get in bed by 7:15pm.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

I was reminded not too long ago about the Paradox of Power. A term first read in a book by Robert Evans (see #5), he describes the Paradox of Power in this way. When you have more power, you are farther away which means that you actually lose power. And without the power of immediacy to control everything, those who recognize you as the boss find your lack of micromanagement hard to believe.

To help such people who loath your inaction, EMPOWER them to make choices that support what should occur, all while being the best version of themselves.

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?

One book is hard. I have two.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. In it, Ruiz identified the four as: 1) Be Impeccable With Your Word, 2) Don't Take Anything Personally, 3) Don't Make Assumptions, and 4) Always Do Your Best. Really, Don't Take Anything Personally.

The Seven Secrets of the Savvy School Leader by Robert Evans. In it, Evans shares seven secrets. Encompassing the seven, Evans describes the innate tensions inherent in leadership, explores the difference between dilemmas and problems, encourages leaders to make change by making meaning, and offers guidance for being your best and bold self. Perfect.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Read my book, "From the Head: A Resource to Motivate, Inspire, and Affirm Leaders." Use the ideas I share in it to encourage yourself to be authentic, sure, and open when you begin that new leadership role or begin anew with each next school year. As sure as you are, you'll build community within your school, and ultimately a culture too.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I've worked in independent schools for 23 years of my career. I started in public schools, however. For a period of two years, I was the lead administrator in what was arguably the worst school in our district. Given some of my days, someone could have probably convinced me. Even so, not a day goes by that I don't think about t-h-o-s-e kids. So much was against them, even me at times, and so much that's against them is disregarded and made to be unimportant. Unfortunately for them too, the so much is a prerequisite for learning.

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