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Name: Tsae Wong
Organisation: Trinity Lutheran College, Queensland
Dr Tsae Wong commenced as the Principal of Trinity Lutheran College in Gold Coast, Queensland since 2014 after serving four years in the role of Deputy Head of College. She previously held teaching, middle and senior leadership positions at St Hilda’s School, John Paul College and Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School in Queensland. Dr Wong commenced her teaching career at one of Singapore’s leading schools, Raffles Girls’ Secondary School. She contributes to the education and leadership dialogues through publications and presentations at international and national conferences. Dr Wong has served on Lutheran Education Queensland’s Finance and Development Committee and currently serves on the the Independent Schools Queensland’s Education Committee and Block Grant Authority Education Committee. She is passionate about building leadership capacities in others through coaching and mentoring. Dr Wong is also interested in studying, learning and exploring organisational business and growth strategies.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Keep fully abreast of all the legislative and compliance requirements in the midst of ever changing and evolving external landscapes.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I became a leader as a child when playing with the other children in the neighbour and at school. I tended to come out with ideas of what and how to play and organise the children around me to "execute" the play.
At school, I was involved in Girls' Guides (or Scouts). I was appointed a group leader in high school for this extra-curricular group.
I was trained to be a teacher, there I lead the students in my classes by mobalisng them to learn and growth. I subsequently became a Head of Department, Director of Teaching and Learning, then Deputy Head of College before becoming a College Principal.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
In more recent years, I focussed a great deal on balance in life. Hence, I start my days with meditation and exercise each day. I like to get to work half an hour before official start so that I could get a few important things done before the demands of others interrupt my day. I start planning my day the night prior, then during my 20 minutes drive to work, I would think about the day ahead and rehearse some of the challenging tasks in my head.
I followed by day's schedule including some thinking and planning time. I also make sure I structure meeting and greeting staff and students a few times a week. I ensure that I eat my lunch uninterrupted and promptly.
At the end of the work day, I check against my do list to play the next day. After work, I incorporate some exercise routines such as yoga, core strengths workout, or walking.
In the evening, after dinner, I might do some professional reading, clearing some emails on a heavily scheduled day, practise my cello, and unwind by reading fiction an hour before sleeping.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
When working with experienced leaders, you cannot assume that their thinking and approaches match that of yours. At times, you need to be crystal clear in your communication and expectations to avoid misunderstanding of the priorities and mandates.
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 read widely and extensively to learn and grow as person and as a leader. Hence, it is hard to identify one book which profoundly impact my leadership.
I do however keep coming back to the strategies and principles outlined in Jim Collin's Good to Great over the years. The reason for this regular referral back to the book is because every organisation has the potential to improve and grow. The status quo does not exist as the external landscapes change, the internal situations evolve, so seeking to value-add to the organisation is the only sure way to add value to the organisation.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Invest in yourself as a person so that you build a strong foundation for your future, i.e. ensure that all aspects of your life is kept in good balanced development.
Leadership growth is a forever journey. You can learn from everyone and in all situations. Be humble, be present, be teachable, and be kind to yourself and others, you will lead well into the future.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
There are so many lessons and stories to share. One that stuck in my mind was the one when I was in my second year in my current role. Everything was going very well and I ought to be happy. However, I was a blubbing mess because I was burdened by the imposter syndrome and could not fathom how I got there and why I deserve to be successful. A very confronting experience for me; but it was a turning point of me being kind to myself by not putting so much pressure to prove my worth as a leader.