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: Trevor Buchanan
Title: Acting Lead Principal
Organisation: Queensland Department of Education - Mount Isa Centre for Learning and Wellbeing
Commencing as a teacher in 2001 and moving into school leadership in 2007, I have been a principal of five primary schools across three different regions, working in regional and rural locations. I bring a broad breadth of knowledge and perspective of the workings of education and some of the common and distinct challenges across the state into any school leadership role.
Committed to the principles of life-long learning, and leading school change through evidenced based practices, I have continued my study, completing a Master of Education in 2011 and currently progressing through a Doctorate of Education. I am keenly interested in the leadership journey of school principals and how education systems manage succession planning and development of aspirant and existing leaders. This interest has led me to engage as a Principal Mentor with Take the Lead and Principal Coach within both the North Coast and North Queensland regions and lecturing in the Master of Education (Leadership and Mangement) program for James Cook University.
My diligence and personal commitment to success is evident in the culture I build in the schools I have led. My school leadership was recognised in 2011 as Queensland’s Finalist of the AITSL Australian Primary Principal of the Year Awards and in 2018 with a Regional Commendation for the Griffith University Jack Prizzey Award for Principal of the Year.
I am a strong advocate of the work of principals and schools, currently as an elected board member of the Queensland Association of State School Principals Board, representative on their Capability Development Subcommittee and branch representative to the James Cook University Professional Experience Advisory Committee.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Delegation has always been my largest challenge as a leader. It's balancing that process of allowing others to grow, providing enough support and having the right check-in mechanisms for accountability without micro-managing. Upon reflection over the last few years, I have to deliberately think about delegation as a capability piece. In doing so, as a leader I am working on building the skill sets of others, which in turn supports my willingness to let go.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Ever since I was a teenager, I have sought opportunities for leadership. This was even through school and youth organisations such as Scouts and Air Force Cadets. There are two reasons why I have aspired for leadership, firstly is I am very competitive and stubbornly independent. The second is a little contrary to the first. I really want to assist others. I get a lot of joy out of seeing others succeed and flourish. If I can help with that, then I feel a real sense of accomplishment.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Unfortunately, my work habits are atrocious, but it is something that I am mindful of and working on improving with a commitment to doing activities that help me find my flow. Typically, I am awake by 6:30 each day and I check email for things that are going to shift my day, ie. staff absences and publish any daily notices for staff.
Then, I take time to have breakfast and drink my morning tea before heading to work by 7:30am. At work, I try to get as much admin done as possible before 8:30am as the remainder of the day I am normally connecting with students, parents and staff. Each day I do one of the end of day duties. This gives me a chance to check in with students about their day, talk with parents and ensure the school day is over, before returning to the office to follow up with staff or the school's leadership team.
I aim to leave by 5:00pm each day. I will then spend time with family and potter in the garden until after dinner, when I will normally work from home for about 1 - 2 hours. I am usually back in bed by 9:30pm each night. Sleep is really important for me.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
As a leader, I am very good at the operational and implementation processes and can navigate challenges quickly, so in some ways, I am more of a very effective manager. However, my current role has really challenged this, forcing me to slow my processes down and consider more broadly larger stakeholder groups and not come up with the answer straight away. Taking the time to get the response right, saves me time later on.
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?
About 12 years ago, I read the true story, The Tiger Man of Vietnam. Not only was this an interesting read about war hero Barry Petersen, it was the connection that Barry had to diverse groups to overcome complex challenges. I am come from a military family, so his story is also something I could connect with. Reflecting on the importance of connections with diverse others to resolve challenges is something that I strive for in the work I do.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Don't be disheartened by a missed opportunity. Make sure you reflect, get feedback and apply your learnings. There are so many opportunities out there, so keep yourself open to new experiences.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Unfortunately, some of my most meaningful stories or reflections, come from times where, as a school leader, I have had to respond to a crisis or critical incident. I have been privileged to work with amazing teachers, that when the going gets tough, they wrap around each other and the leadership of the school to overcome adversity.
I believe that a lot of this reflects the workplace culture that has been built around respect and support. You are not always going to see eye to eye, however how you deal with that as leader, when the workplace is not responding to crisis, will have an impact on the response of your team, during challenging times.