- Programme: Proteus
- Nationality: Australian
- Job Post-programme: Principal, Kambala Girls School
Margaret has more than thirty years’ experience in teaching and leadership in both the public and independent sectors. Since 2000 she has been the Principal at Kambala, one of Australia’s most prestigious independent girls’ schools. Margaret attended Proteus in June 2012.
Reflecting upon leadership
Twelve years after I became Principal at Kambala, the moment seemed right for me to step back and reflect upon some of the more thoughtful aspects of
leadership. A colleague, who had attended the High Performance People Skills programme at London Business School, kept telling me how wonderful it was.
I decided to investigate. While looking at London Business School’s website I came across Proteus – and thought, “Now that looks interesting”. So much of what we do as leaders depends on being reactive; Proteus was all about the possibilities of being proactive – of designing a positive environment that will flourish into the future.
The Proteus challenge
I was surprisingly nervous about applying – or rather, about the telephone conversation during which the School would decide whether I’d be a good fit. In a way it felt like going back to my exam days. You’re not automatically accepted; you have to “pass” something! And of course, that’s a positive part of the process. Being one of a carefully selected, diverse group, from many working backgrounds, was wonderful. I really appreciated the opportunity to perceive things from a different point of view – lots of different points of view!
Proteus was challenging – in a really good way. We couldn’t just sit back, and there was no room for cynicism. It was collaborative, and all about getting stuck in – you had to do the life drawing, you had to get involved in the drama exercise, you had to open up and listen to the speakers who challenged you with their ideas and philosophies. For me, the life drawing exercise was really interesting. I am seriously hopeless at art, and there we were, asked to draw this figure in eight strokes, then six, then five. I suddenly saw that if you strip away the complexity of a situation you’ll see the essence of it. I’ve thought of that so often since, both in my professional and my personal life.
London as classroom
Being on a residential programme was a huge part of the experience. It allowed us to continue our discussions outside “official” hours, and the social interaction really added to the trust element that some of those discussions, and some of the exercises, required. The days were long, but there was a real satisfaction in working hard! And it was great to be in London. Proteus really immersed us in the city, leading us everywhere from London Zoo to a local school.
Designing a positive legacy
Proteus changed things quite profoundly for me, and in some really significant areas. I enjoyed bringing a little of the programme’s playfulness into my work – I even did a version of it with the Kambala staff, which was very successful. It broke down barriers – people present themselves quite differently when exposed in ways they’re not used to in their professional lives – and that was fascinating. I really hope that it will form part of my legacy at Kambala – that a little of the Proteus experience will be embedded with the people that are here now.
I also brought a certain mindfulness back from London. I noticed at Kambala that my time was becoming more productive, which led me to recognise that I have achieved much of what I wanted to achieve professionally. I realised I felt ready to hand the reins over to somebody else. From seeking to understand the legacy that I might leave my organisation, I was now able to appreciate the legacy that I can leave to my profession. In that way, for me Proteus really was life-changing.