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7 Questions on Leadership with Rohan Deanshaw

Name: Rohan Deanshaw

Title: Principal

Organisation: Macquarie College

Married to Leanne (32 years). Two adult children. Interests include ultra running, travel and dining out.

MA (Sociology)/Bachelor of Education/Post Grad. Dip. (Organisational Leadership) Professional career has included 15 years of operational policing.

More than 18 years in senior leadership positions in schools, including 16 as a principal. Interests include building teams, adaptive leadership, adaptive cultures and design thinking.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Rohan's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

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

Accepting that the "work" is never done and being able to step back and invest time in non-work relationships/interests with the same energy that I typically apply to work-related goals.

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

My leadership journey started while I was policing, both formally and informally. Over that time I had the opportunity to be mentored by many outstanding leaders throughout the organisation I worked for, oftentimes in the most trying of pressure filled circumstances.

Many of those lessons were directly transferable to my current leadership role in education. I guess I became a leader in a formal sense as those leaders around me were willing to provide me with the scope to develop skills and the safety to learn from my many mistakes.

I think of myself as continuing to become a leader - hopefully I remain open to learning and growth as a leader every day.

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

During the week my day starts soon after 4am. I would typically brew a coffee which I then drink in the car as I drive to the beach to run. Most mornings that run would be about 10 kms.

Aside from the exercise, the running time provides me with an uninterrupted opportunity to review the previous day, plan the day ahead and often provides the mental space to think about a particular issue/opportunity that I'm seeking to make sense of. I will often spend time in prayer during this running time also.

Following my run I'm typically in the office by 7am where I'll review the day ahead with my immediate team prior to my first scheduled meeting of the day which is typically 8am.

Being a largish school, no two days will be the same other than regularly scheduled team meetings. Dependent upon the time of the year, a typical week may also include various community events and evening programs which can often extend the working day through to 7:30-8pm.

My evenings would typically include catching up with family, reading, the occasional documentary and then seeking to get as much sleep in as possible before doing it all again.

The school year is most often experienced at a frenetic pace for school leaders. Supporting our team of senior leaders to ensure their own self-care through modelling my own is a key aspect of my work throughout each day.

The work we do is critical in supporting and enabling the aspirations of the young people we work with. Holding this critical work lightly, finding time for fun and laughter and experiencing the joy that the unique community life of a Preschool to Year 12 campus offers is central to longevity in this type of role.

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

We are currently bringing a number of large projects to life across our organisation. This work often involves mobilising teams of people to take on work which is new territory for them.

The lesson or principle that there are as many different ways to lead people as there are people in a given team is something I seek to remind myself of constantly. (How I respond to stimulus or a particular data set may be entirely different to the people around me).

Consequently there is often more than one right way to move forward on a matter and building consensus and momentum is more important than being right.

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?

Leadership on the Line (Ronald Heifetz & Marty Linsky). This book unpacks Adaptive Leadership in real world settings. Understanding the distinction between technical challenges, where current knowledge can be applied, and adaptive work, which requires new thinking/learning, has been pivotal to my growth as a leader.

I understand that many leaders and organisations fail to successfully embed change when they fail to distinguish between technical and adaptive work.

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

Be kind to yourself and seek to surround yourself with people who respect your individuality and are prepared to let you learn from the inevitable mistakes that you will make as you seek to grow as a leader. Leadership is a practice and it can be developed and demonstrated regardless of title or position.

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

Early in my time as a leader in the police force I worked in a team where the senior leader would occasionally arrive at work during night shift or over the weekend to cook a meal for the night shift/evening teams which would typically be working under great pressure.

This act of undeserved service by the senior leader was extremely impactful on my formation as a leader. Understanding that no task was beneath the senior leader in service of supporting the work of the team has stayed with me to this day and has helped inform my work.

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