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7 Questions on Leadership with Mark Edwards

Name: Mark Edwards

Title: Teacher of Economics and Business Studies

Organisation: Pui Kiu International College

Spent 16 years working as a Bank Manager in the UK where I functioned more as a manager than as a leader. I got used to telling people what to do and they got used to doing. Everyone new where they stood and as a team we were pretty successful. In the advent of the financial crash in 2008 I thought I'd try something different - become a teacher and see the world. Now I truly am a leader having left the management traits behind. Now I listen before making decisions often I don't make the decisions, my students do. They are pretty good at making the right decisions. I faccilitate and no more. The role of a leader is so much more enjoyable, my life now, as a teacher, is so much more fulfifilling, so much more fun. By giving others choices we have so many otherwise unexplored options to consider.

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

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


Jonno White

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

Senior management function as managers yet pretend to be leaders creating a them and us situation. The philosophy is very much a tell situation then make it look as though we were listening. This has been challenging for all staff especially leaders such as myself. When managers pretend to be leaders this is doomed to failure. Respect is not gained and their actions are demeened because the process of communication is on way only. As a leader I respect the point of view of others and will make a decision based on the concensus - the many no more than I. As a leader I like to be listened to also and I like to have my point of view considered in any decision making process in which I am a stakeholder. When this is not happening this goes against my beliefs as a leader and yes represents a huge challenge. This was the case in my previous employment.

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

As i mentioned in the bio I transformed from being a manager to being a leader and it was my choice. I now work with people I want to know and those same people want to know me. Perhaps this was the role and the expectations of the role. When I worked at the bank I was given target which I expected my team to hit so the role of manager seemed appropriate. I wasn't interested in how they did it so long as the targets were hit that was all that mattered come what may. Now, as a teacher my life is all about my students. I focus on student centred learning which is not a tell approach, quite the contrary, I listen to my students, I get to understand my students, I adapt to suit my students' learning styles. This could only be done by a leader.

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

I do not leave my work place until my work is done. I do not take my work home with me from a physical or a mental point of view. In reverse I do not bring my social life into work; they are completely independent on each other. The success of this is all down to planning and preparation. Setting-up objectives, work and leisure then planning how to achieve them then sticking with the plan. I sleep well.

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

I took a class with my Y9 students who I have know for just six weeks. I gave them a project to complete over a week of lessons culminating in a presentation. I gave them an objective and left them to it. During the first lesson it was constantly shal we do this or do that. They needed scaffolding. When I said it was up to them they seemed confused but walked away. By the end of the week no-one was coming to my desk. They had evolved into prime leaders, efficient team players and communicators of the highest calibre - I could never teach this. As a leader you have to trust in the innate ability of others.

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?

The Nudge Theory by Richard Thaler. Basically he is saying that people don't appreciate being told what to do they prefer to make their own decisions. When someone makes their own decision they effort they put in to the task is far greater. From a leader's point of view rather than telling the team what to do simply 'nudge' them. So, if I want my team to go in a certain direction and to do so productively I will 'nudge' them with subtle hints. They will chose my prefered idea and they will believe it is their choice. We are both winners in that I get what I want and my team are happy because ultimately it was them that made the decision or so they believe.

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

Be patient in building positive relationships earning the trust of those around you.

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

Previously I worked in a school as teacher and Housemaster. Both roles in which quality leadership is fundamental. As a Housemaster I would spend hours with my students getting to know and understans so that, eventually, it becomes like a sixth sense: I knew how a student was feeling as I walked in a room without a word being said. When I left the role my students put together a wonderful video of thanks for being such an understanding leader, one who led by listening not telling. I often reflect upon these times and the video serves as a wonderful reminder that we are all equal and we all deserve to be equally unnderstood and respected.

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