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I hope reading
7 Questions with Vijay Manuel
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Vijay Manuel
Name: Vijay Manuel
Current title: Head of Schools
Current organisation: MEI Schools
Vijay was born in India in 1973 as the fourth and youngest child of Reverend & Mrs. David and Stella Manuel. His family moved to Three Hills, Alberta in 1977 and eventually settled in Abbotsford, B.C. In 1980 where Vijay graduated from the Mennonite Educational Institute in 1991. Vijay was active in sports (basketball, volleyball), music (trumpet, voice), and leadership (student body president). After completing his bachelor's degree and teaching certification in 1996 at Simon Fraser University, Vijay began teaching in the Abbotsford school district.
In 2003, Vijay completed his masters degree in Educational Leadership with a focus on Administration through San Diego State University and went on to serve as the vice principal at Robert Bateman Secondary, W.J. Mouat Secondary, and Abbotsford's Integrated Arts School before being awarded a principalship at Abbotsford Traditional Middle School.
Vijay accepted a position at MEI Schools as the Head of Schools effective February 2016 which involves leading all aspects of the organization including the learning experience from preschool to graduation. He has also helped establish Character Abbotsford and currently serves as the Board Chair. This organization has been formally recognized for their work in the Canadian Senate and British Columbia Parliament. Vijay has been recognized twice as one of Abbotsford's Most Influential People.
Vijay and his wife Sarah have been married for 21 years and have four children ages 18, 16, 10, and 6.
Which option best describes the religious affiliation of the organisation you currently work for or most recently worked for?
Christian religious affiliation
What type of organisation do you work for or support?
School (5-17 y/os)
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader in the education sector?
There are many challenges that we must be prepared to face as learning leaders. Perhaps one of the most important ones, in my experience, is to continually learn and grow. I encourage my team of principals and managers to this end: keep learning, keep growing! If we are to cultivate an environment that is rich in learning, we must live this out every day and be prepared to have our calendars, daily routines, and long-term planning reflect this priority. We must invest funds to support this target for our staff, for all of our staff, both educators and operations. By cultivating a continued passion for learning among our leadership and staff, we have a fantastic base from which to spread this love to our students.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I’m an early riser.
Generally I like being in my office before others get there so I can prepare: pray, read, reflect, plan. I have rhythms worked into my days that place me on the curb of each school greeting families, visiting with the principal, and then visiting classes. My afternoons are filled with organizational tasks related to management and vision. I am home every night for dinner with our family with very rare exceptions. After dinner, I spend time with my children and my wife. If there are any tasks needed in the evenings, they happen after our younger two are in bed.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Leaders need to put staff first.
> Hire skilled people with good attitudes
> Encourage them > Support them
> Grown them
> Listen to them
> Let them run with their ideas
Next, watch them put the students first in all they do.
They’ll do this well IF they trust you as their leader.
4. 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 this book daily. There are 31 chapters corresponding with the days in our months.
I read and re-read this book every morning, one chapter per day.
It has provided wisdom and guidance in so many ways.
5. How do you find and keep great leaders in the education sector?
It is so important to build something with clear vision and values that attracts outstanding leaders.
I believe that it is equally important to grow your organization’s leadership capacity at the same time.
I launched a Leadership Series for our organization that takes place each spring. Staff are nominated to participate by their principals/managers. They get to know me, my story, and my passions, and I get to know them!
Build something awesome!
Grow the leadership capacity of your organization!
6. What's most important as a leader in the education sector for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Integrity. Lead the way you want things to run.
Don’t fudge the lines because it’s easier.
Be transparent in your purpose and motivations.
Share openly with staff every chance you get.
Manage well, then share vision; there’s a better chance of them joining you.
Care deeply and authentically for each person, regardless of position in the organization.
A humble approach to everything.
Teams are better.
For me, I aim to walk like Jesus did. This provides any organization that I’m working for with the best version of Vijay Manuel.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader in the education sector so far?
Ah, perhaps too many to draw from.
Generally, intentionally connecting with students and staff (making it happen regularly) allows for deeper relationships with each of them. They need to SEE us in their worlds, not just hear about us.
I have seen so many wonderful relationships develop that allow me to speak into a student or staff member’s life, and vice versa.
Leaders should be on the ground and a part of the action as much as possible.
We're looking at doing a limited, online 30 minute leadership masterclass in the next couple of months. What topic/s would you find most valuable from a leadership masterclass?
What strategies do you employ to maintain health and balance in your life?