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helps you in your leadership.
Name: Samantha Jackson
Title: CEO Leadership Development
Organisation: NSW Department of Education
Samantha has served in a variety of school settings as a Principal, senior executive and Head Teacher multiple schools in South Western Sydney, NSW Australia. She also brings extensive leadership experience at a senior level in the corporate sector as Director, Quality Teaching Practice and Director, School Services. Her work and the work of the teams she has led has had a focus on developing and delivering evidence-based programs through high impact professional learning to strengthen the capability of teachers and school leaders. Samantha is passionate about educational leadership and mentoring. Her Masters in Educational Leadership has given her a deep research base to enhance her knowledge and practice.
As a leader Samantha has developed strong collaborative relationships across the department and with external stakeholders to ensure her work and the work of the teams she leads does not sit in isolation. As an educational leader she has students at the central focus in all that she does.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
I have been told that I have strong emotional intelligence and develop relational trust with people I work with. As a leader the most challenging times have been when I could not make that connection with a team member or another leader. The connections with people have always helped to get the buy in when doing important work and developing strategic goals. On a different note, personally my greatest challenge is if my "boss" is a micromanager. I specifically say "Boss" because micromanagers are not leaders.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I became a leader because one of my principals saw something in me I didn't realise was there. He recommended me for a role as a mentor in a program to develop, support and retain early career teachers in our system. Apparently my communication skills and capacity to develop people in a way that felt supportive and nurturing stood out to him and the senior executive of the school at the time. From that role I went on into different leadership roles and realised that I had the ability to take policy and reframe it in a way that supported growth, development and change/improvement in a positive way i.e. get to see policy as a friend rather than an inhibitor.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I wake up early and exercise every morning. Before heading into my office ( I work from home 4 days a week and every Monday I go into our head office to be with my team) I make breakfast for my daughter ( 25) and husband and take my dog Bonnie for a walk. That time is where I can be Mum and wife before the day starts. I start engaging with emails, teams messages and phone calls about 8 am. As a team we meet every morning at 9 am to start our day in a brief session called "Sunrise". Lunch is eaten at my desk usually whilst in meetings ( retired husband brings it to me). I try to finish and go for a walk with my husband and dog around 4:30 pm each day. I engage with emails throughout the evening in front of the TV ( much to my husbands annoyance). I try to stop looking at emails around 7 pm and just relax.
As I get up at 5 am every morning I like to be in bed by 9 pm and asleep by about 10 pm.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Leadership does not need to be positional. Its about your mindsets, we want our teachers to have a strong moral purpose and be efficacious and believe they can make a difference for all children in public schools. The other leadership lesson I also hold true is that there are different leadership styles /stances and as a leader we step into those according to the situation. Sometimes as leaders we need to be transformational, other times instructional but we are forever learning and growing with those we work with and for.
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?
I am very lucky that I am surrounded by amazing leaders everyday. We engage with many outstanding educational researchers and thinkers. It is hard to think about which books have had a profound effect on me but Viviane Robinsons book "Reduce change to increase improvement" makes so much sense to me. In education there is a constant narrative about "change" and people are "change fatigued" Her statement that rings true to me " It is time to stop talking about change and to focus on a far more ambitious goal of achieving improvement". I love her work because she keeps it real and offers concrete examples. I subscribe to her belief that "if you cannot illustrate your advice, then don't give it"
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Develop your contextual literacy and get to know the people you work with, it is only through listening, observing and having integrity that you will develop that relational trust that is so important in leadership. You cannot be a leader if people don't trust you and want to engage with you ( I say " if they are not buying what you are selling.......")- there is a difference between being the boss and being a leader.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Giving people your time and caring can go a long way. The story is not about me but a man who was at the top of the hierarchy of my organisation. In December 2021 my father became very ill very quickly and passed away 2 days before Christmas, within 2 hours of his passing I received a text message from the leader who I had worked with but had little to do with on a daily basis. It blew me away that he would reach out to express his condolences and ask if he could help. His humanity as a leader touched me deeply because it was so unexpected and so authentic.