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7 Questions on Leadership with Jef Fugita

Name: Jef Fugita

Title: Associate Principal

Organisation: Public Education

Educational Leader with 30+ years experience in public education and business.

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

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


Jonno White

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

Change management in the education arena has been challenging. Striving to meet the current needs of students, staff and community, and simultaneously planning for and implementing necessary changes, all while dealing with limited budgets and time, is a constant juggling act.

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

I was inspired to become a leader by my leaders. They encouraged me to seek leadership roles. They supported me with opportunities and coaching. I decided a principal license was a way to continue my own learning and grow my leadership. I was offered an assistant principal position after finishing my licensure program. After that, I continued to grow as a leader through advancing to a principalship and subsequent district leadership positions. I continued my leadership journey through coaching, classes, seeking feedback, and reading works about leadership along the way.

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

I like routine and have sought out work life balance to help reduce my stress. I wake early to meditate and stretch every day. I paired my habits, to help promote my health. For example, I keep a favorite water glass next to the coffee maker to make sure I start the day hydrated. I take my vitamins when I brush my teeth. I have brought my lunch to work almost everyday my entire career - again healthy choices combined with reducing decision fatigue. I am ready to leave for work around 6:20 am for a 7:00 am start to the school day. I maintain a calendar at school to keep track of daily, weekly and monthly tasks. I try to balance each day with time in classrooms and hallways with students and staff. I gain energy from interacting with those I’m serving. The days are packed with managing the unexpected along with the daily routine stresses that occur with being in a school. School is dismissed at 3:45 and barring any emergencies, I am usually headed home by 4:15 each day. Once home, I check my progress on my daily 10,000 step goal and either walk outside or on the treadmill. Then, my family and I will have dinner together and catch up on the day. I am usually in bed early, around 8:30, with the goal of eight hours of sleep each night.

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

Recently, I was reminded to encourage problem solving by a staff member by asking more questions and listening more than talking. As a school leader you are often the main problem solver and it is easy to fall into this mode as we get busy. One of the assistant principals came into my office and asked for help with a situation. As they began to talk about the problem, it became clear they needed time to externally process the situation and likely could arrive at the solution. I asked what support they needed, and if they needed me to listen or help solve the problem. They stated they didn’t quite know, but wanted to continue to process. I decided to listen and be mostly quiet. In the end, they were able to process and come up with a solution and just needed a sounding board and support.

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?

Dare to Lead by Brene’ Brown. This book really helped my leadership in many ways. One, was the part about dropping non-constructive feedback at your feet and stepping over it. Of course the book goes into this in greater detail, but this really helped, as in education we receive our fair share of unwarranted negative feedback. This allowed me to not personalize it and overly stress about the blame climate. By doing this, it then helps me deal with constructive feedback and move forward with positive changes in response, and not waste energy on the non-productive feedback.

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

Throughout my career in education, I have worked hard to define my beliefs and values and recognize how my behavior needs to match my words. My advice would be to know your values and what you believe in, making sure your words match your actions.

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

My integrity is extremely important to me. My decisions are grounded in taking care of people, and acting ethically. I am proud that my leadership makes a difference for others and helps grow other leaders. I am a member of a leadership coaching group supporting principals across our state. My newest mentee stated that they feel my coaching has helped them feel more confident and ready to tackle the day-to-day urgent problems, while also focusing on their own growth as a leader. This was fulfilling to hear.

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