How a wrong number was a good reminder of great leadership

Earlier today I had a call from a colleague I used to work for and with in my previous role in Canberra. It was an, admittedly, unexpected call – he’d somehow still had my mobile in his speed dial and had meant to ring my successor.

As it turned out, I was glad he got the number wrong!

It was a brief chat and a chat that had all the qualities of why it’s easy to recognise good leaders: Humility, quiet humour, and a genuine desire not to talk about themselves but about you, people you both know, and, given this person was a principal, the achievements of their school. It’s never about them – it’s about their school. Their students. Their staff. Their parents. ‘We’ – not ‘me’.

I’m still taken with how such people stand out by the essence of their quiet leadership. In my time working with schools, particularly, you see the really good principals and teachers – they’re the ones who literally are the values they espouse, the ones where the students instinctively recognise as being anchored in themselves, the ones the parents talk about.

Today was a quick, ten minute chat, yet in that time I was given by my former colleague an impromptu and humbly received reminder of how values-based leadership is not spoken – it is lived.