I recently had the privilege to sit with two Interim Heads of School from different schools on the same day. Each of these women has provided decades of strong and inspiring independent school leadership and could teach a master class on leadership.
Each of these accomplished Interim Heads was hired to provide stability to their respective campus communities in advance of a search for a new, permanent Head of School. Both have unimpeachable reputations for excellence, integrity and possess an incredible reservoir of empathy and professionalism.
Meeting #1: A Class Act in a Challenging Transition
The first meeting took place at a K-8 coed school whose admissions and marketing leads had invited Kalix Marketing to talk about how we might be able to help this school undertake a market research project. The school is interested in studying its brand perception in the local market. The Interim Head was replacing a six-year veteran who was no longer in alignment with the parent community on several issues.
The Interim Head was a passionate advocate for her new school and most impressively defended the former Head in way that showed her true empathy and value as a leader. She did not put the former Head down in any way and said it was unfair for others in the community to continue to assign blame to him for some of the schools issues. A class act indeed.
Meeting #2: Connecting at Every Opportunity
The second “meeting” was a weekly, sit-down dinner at a girl’s day and boarding school with the Interim Head of School, six boarding students and a faculty member. I have the pleasure of knowing this leader since her one-year term began last July. (Full disclosure: The faculty member is my wife, and we are an on-campus faculty family at the school.)
Just before dinner started, the Interim Head said that she would love to sit next to us and talk, but her job tonight was to interact with the students. She sat opposite to us, with a student seated on either side of her. She did a masterful job of talking to each student at the table, inquiring about their day, and engaging in easy conversation. She made each student feel incredibly comfortable and welcome around the table. So much so, that by the end of dinner, students were asking her what her major in college was, where she went to school and how she became a Head. The students even complimented her unique heart necklace. (As the father of girls, I know what high praise this is.)
Great leaders inspire others, and I felt honored to see two of the very best at work on the same day. They reminded me that empathy and compassion are key leadership qualities that all of us need to emulate.
Jonathan Oleisky is President of Kalix Marketing.
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