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  • Writer's picturearniebieber

Interviewing and Leveraging Yourself Into Leadership

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

I often remind aspiring school leaders that before anyone was a head of school, principal or any other titled leadership position, they weren't! Every leader has had to take that leap at some point because leadership positions are not inherited at birth. The crucial question is how to navigate that transition effectively.

I just finished facilitating an ISS workshop for aspiring international school leaders entitled, Interviewing and Leveraging Yourself Into Leadership. This is one of the many professional learning offerings available through ISS EDUlearn™ Passport.

The workshop provided an overview of leadership definitions and styles for participants to consider. My favorite is a quote from Peter Senge:

“Leadership Is the Capacity of a Human Community to Shape Its Future.”

This quote highlights the idea that leadership is not solely an individual trait, but rather a collective capacity within a community to come together and actively influence and shape the path forward. It emphasizes the importance of shared responsibility and collaboration in creating a desired future outcome.

We then discussed some practical "tips" for engaging in the interview process.


"Know thyself" is a phrase attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. In the context of an interview, "know thyself" means having a deep understanding of your own strengths, weaknesses, values, skills, and experiences. By knowing yourself well, you can effectively communicate your qualifications and present your authentic self, which is what any school is looking for.


Before attending an interview, it's crucial to conduct thorough research on the school or organization you are applying to, as well as the specific position you are interviewing for. This allows you to gain a comprehensive understanding of the institution's values, mission, vision, culture, and educational approach. Familiarize yourself with the school's demographics, such as the student population, faculty, and any notable achievements or innovations. Understanding the institution's location can also help you tailor your answers and demonstrate your interest in being part of that particular community. Also, study the job description to find valuable information about the specific responsibilities, qualifications, and expectations associated with the position. By doing so, you can align your responses during the interview with the requirements of the role.


Clear and Concise Communication is key to a successful interview:

Avoid using a lot of jargon or technical terms. Instead, communicate using clear and straightforward language. This will ensure that your message is easily understood.

Be mindful of your pace: Speaking at a moderate pace and pausing will allow for more give and take with the interviewer, allowing for a better interaction and connection.

Listen carefully to the interviewer's question and answer specifically what was asked. Avoid going off on tangents or providing excessive information that is not directly relevant.

Practice active listening: Pay attention to the interviewer's cues, such as body language and verbal prompts. This will help you gauge whether you are effectively communicating and if you need to adjust your approach.

Use examples and stories: When appropriate, illustrate your points with relevant examples or stories from your past experiences. This can make your answers more engaging and memorable while providing concrete evidence of your skills and accomplishments.

Seek clarification: If you don't fully understand a question, don't hesitate to ask for clarification. It's better to seek clarity than to provide a vague or incorrect response.

Practice: The more you practice your interview responses, the more comfortable and confident you will become.


Sometimes people don't feel comfortable speaking about themselves, or are shy to do so. Don't be! To showcase your leadership skills during an interview, highlight specific examples that demonstrate your ability to lead, motivate, and inspire others and make sure to credit the others that you worked with. Discuss past experiences where you successfully led teams, managed projects, or implemented initiatives, highlighting the positive outcomes achieved. These examples don't necessarily need to come from the world of schools or education.


After the interview, make sure to reach out to the school with a thank you note. Sending a thank you note is a polite and professional way to express your gratitude for the interviewer's time and consideration. A well-crafted thank you note can leave a lasting positive impression on the interviewer and is another opportunity to reiterate your interest in the position and help you stand out and stay top of mind.

Let's try it!

After reviewing these tips for putting ones best foot forward in the interview, it was time for the participants to take turns to practice and try their hands as both being the interviewer and interviewee. Each participant asked their partner the following questions (NOT in the style of Between Two Ferns!)


After the practice session, the workshop came to a close with a review of some suggestions for aspiring leaders to take toward their first steps to assuming a school leadership role.

To read more about some principles of school leadership and further suggestions on becoming a school leader, see my previous blog: Leaning Into Leadership.


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