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7 Questions on Leadership with Geoff Leary

Name: Geoff Leary

Title: Retired primary school principal

Organisation: MacKillop College, Port Macquarie

I have spent 43 years in primary education. During that period, I have been in senior leadership for 30 years. I continuously saw my role in education, as building the capacity of students, classes, teachers and schools to offer children and families, engaging learning experiences and a community that embraced their individualism and supported strength through community.

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

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


Jonno White

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

The prolific growth in the last 20 years of knowledge and information, which has created an unprecedented endeavour to compete. Endeavours by governance and systems to compete, have possibly stifled significant potential for profound growth.

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

I was encouraged to become a leader by a principal who I respected immensely. I had no thought of moving into leadership up to this point.

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

I attempted to do most of my administrative tasks before and after school, so that I was available for students, teachers, colleagues and families through the course of the school day.

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

That the greatest joy in leadership is being surprised by another’s leadership potential, and allowing them opportunity and resource to develop their passion.

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?

Stephen Covey – ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.’

I think it was written in the 70s.

I read the book and actually did a two day workshop, focusing on the seven habits.

Many of the insights inspired my leadership, through to the conclusion of my principalship. Perhaps one of the most profound insights was the clever way Stephen built a realisation in the reader that the same thing seen by similar people can be perceived very differently.

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

Hello, how are you?

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

A friend of mine telling me how a brother cuffed him under the ear when he would not settle on his first night at boarding school. My friend had had a questionable history at a number of previous schools. The next morning, the brother approached my friend and warmly welcomed him to the new day. My brother remembers this one incident as a springboard to building a really positive relationship with this brother, and this relationship, eventually turning his attitude and journey in education. Lesson – never underestimate the power of incidental goodwill.

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