Thank you, Stuart Dennis

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Yesterday I found out my former Head of School in Dubai (GEMS World Academy) passed away. In one of our emails he asked me to do an interview. This blog post is dedicated to him.

 

Hello Kevin,
Maybe you’ll consider to do an interview  as part of my little series of interview articles for LinkedIn. Honestly, this is nothing more than a intellectual stimulation for me whilst I’m going through chemo again. However, a great way to connect with amazing people like you.

 

  1. How would describe your leadership style? How has it evolved over the years and why?

I see myself as a coaching leader. Many times I enjoy supporting teammates in fulfilling their goals and providing feedback to aid in growth. The one on one interaction and finding out where people are and how to best be of assistance is where I get energy.

 

  1. Who are your leadership idols and why?

My business advisor Alister Aranha as he always ask great questions and pushes my thinking.

John Ritter, one of my first international school heads, because of his wealth of knowledge and experience around school leadership.

Cynthia Buck was the first principal who hired me in Virginia. She set forth a clear vision and was always supportive with our team goals and my personal goals.

 

  1. What is your greatest leadership success?

Setting up a company in a country outside of the USA. This was done in 2013 in Dubai. There was a lot to learn but so worth the journey.

 

  1. What’s the toughest leadership challenge you’ve faced?

Being comfortable speaking up and out about issues related to diversity, inclusion, and equity in the international education space.

 

  1. Looking forward in your current role, what excites and motivates you as a leader?

Interacting with future talent in the present. This is built into our KDSL Global Fellowship Program. In one year these educators learn more about entrepreneurship and launch a new product or service.

 

  1. What lessons in leadership are you still hoping to learn?

Focusing on a few things would be something I need to revisit. In the past I would choose 3 big things to focus on daily.

 

  1. Do you see your role also a leadership mentor and trainer? Is succession planning at all levels in the organisation important you? How do you achieve this?

I see myself as a leadership learner. This is due to being willing to learn from others based on their experiences. Legacy thinking started with the fellowship program we set up in 2017. It was the idea of how do you give back to the new and next generation of those who work in education? We empowered consultants to start their own ventures and engage in a range of projects. This was my experience which allowed me to learn lots about what I enjoyed and what I did not.

A big change is coming in 2020 at KDSL Global around planning ahead. More to come in the near future.

 

  1. What’s your advice to experienced school leaders looking for the next big step?

Learn what you can where you are. Write down and work on your next big thing but do not allow it to consume you. This may make you miss out on lessons and learning in your current context.

 

  1. What’s your advice to inexperienced leaders in school looking for the first big step?

It would still be learn what you can where you are. Seek a mentor who can serve as a guide. Seek and sign up for opportunities to serve as a leader wherever you are currently working.

 

  1. And finally, how do you relax? 

Meditating

Running

Reading

Just pausing and taking a break from work
Stuart, ‬
‪I’m crushed to hear the news of your departure. You are the reason I came to Dubai. Your vision and leadership were impeccable. I feel you tricked me as well when I found out upon arrival that I’d be teaching the daughter of the Head of School. ‬

‪Thank you for checking in with me & encouraging me to pursue my goals and dreams. You signed every form I brought your way when I wanted to learn, grow, and develop. I’ll miss our updates. ‬

‪In today’s international education leadership space I find few like you. You hired a Black man to teach at what was then the most expensive IB school in Dubai during 2008. I didn’t put my photo on my CV. On our phone interview I learned about you & your expectations.‬

‪You shared leadership opportunities & served as a reference for me countless times, connected me with education leaders around the world, and added me on your team. ‬

‪Thank you for the opportunity to serve, learn, and for being a true leader.‬

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