Steering a Path to Educational Excellence with Loretta Wholley

Get ready for an amazing chat with Loretta Wholley, the talented principal of Genazzano College in Melbourne.  She's going to share her incredible journey in education with us, from her early teaching days in Perth to her current role leading a big school.

Loretta's story is truly inspiring for anyone dreaming of becoming a leader. She discusses  the importance of listening and embracing change, showing us how she's created an environment where everyone's voice matters and growth is a team effort.

We also dive into the nitty-gritty of educational leadership, learning from Loretta about clear communication, setting expectations, and finding that balance between managing big responsibilities and being there for your staff and students.

And don't miss out on Loretta's tips for building a strong team, like being self-aware and delegating tasks strategically. She's got some really valuable insights about trust, avoiding micromanagement, and the power of relationships in leadership.

Loretta is a big picture, strategic thinker who understands the value of networks and the lessons she has learnt across her career will be useful to both experienced and early career leaders.

Jenny Cole 00:00

Hello and welcome to Positively Leading the podcast for new, aspiring and middle leaders in schools. My next guest is neither new or aspiring. She's an experienced school leader and I'm so thrilled to have Loretta joining me today. Hello, Loretta. Hello. Loretta's currently the principal of Genesao College in the inner suburbs of Melbourne in Kew. The school's co-educational at the early learning level, but it's a girls' school all the way through to year 12. It also has a boarding school component and international students. So it's quite complex and I'm so thrilled to have Loretta here because she has such a broad breadth of experience and knowledge. She's the founding member of Ed Leaders, which is a female's principals network. She was voted one of the most influential educational leaders, president of a Catholic principals secondary principals association and nominated Telstra Businesswoman of the year.

Jenny Cole 01:02

But when she's not doing all of those amazing things, she's a mum to two school-age girls. She's worked in three different states and says that even though we're one country, she's learned some very interesting aspects from each one. So great to have you here. I'm really curious about your leadership journey. I know a little bit about it, but can you share your journey with those people who are listening today?

Loretta Wholley 01:26

Certainly, Jenny. I think my journey is quite different or maybe a little bit unique compared to, maybe, the journey that others were on. I started my educational journey in Western Australia, so I was in Perth, Perth, born and bred. A teacher, of course, taught in, I think, about six or seven different Catholic schools in Perth and I was just fortunate to have incredibly great role models, good principals, heads of department who saw potential in me and I was able to kind of go from being an acting head of department to a head of department, to an assistant head of department, to a deputy principal, holding different portfolios, and then I became a principal and moved to Canberra and spent eight years in Canberra and then a principal now in Melbourne. I'm about to start my fourth year at Genazzano and it's been an amazing journey, sometimes incredibly smooth, other times very rocky, other times not knowing what's around the corner but just kind of trusting that I was going to get there.

Jenny Cole 02:25

I just think that's phenomenal. When you and I met very briefly when I was assigned to be your coach as part of a Catholic leadership program at the time, and I remember you being heavily pregnant with your little one and packing up your house to head to Canberra, I remember sitting there thinking, oh my goodness, I don't know how you do this. You seem to have such a drive.

Loretta Wholley 02:48

Is that true? If I think about it, that was just crazy. You know, we moved states, we moved house, we were having a baby. We didn't know anyone in Canberra, so it wasn't like there was going to be anyone to support us there at all and it was just the best move ever, like we've got drive and know. My husband and I made that decision together.

Loretta Wholley 03:08

But I think we also have a lot of kind of like hope and positivity that whatever you do, whatever the next part of your phase of your life is going to be, it's going to be filled with lots of great things, some down things as well, but lots of great things that kind of outweigh it. So there is a sense of positivity when we set out on doing things, and I think we're a yin and a yang kind of personality together, so it works nicely. But I have been very driven in my career. I knew from very early on that I wanted to be a principal and I was then just fortunate to have people who nurtured that and programs like the aspiring principals program, which is what I was in when you came on board.

Jenny Cole 03:47

So talk to me more about role models, what they taught you, the lessons that you learned, or even those role models that you thought, oh, I don't want to be like that.

Loretta Wholley 03:57

I think I always give the beautiful story of a deputy whose name was Brian Buzzard. Actually, at Prendival, which was my first teaching post, I was running in from complaining about something I'd seen on duty and he literally said stop, go for a walk, breathe, come back and let's find a solution. And I think I've really tried to hold on to that. And then, you know, I've just had other principals and other deputies and leaders that have taught me lots of different ways of looking at challenges and problems, Because in the end, that's what we do every day, whether you're in the classroom, whether you're a support staff, yes, you're doing your job, but you're actually going.


Loretta Wholley 04:34

How am I going to tackle this new situation that's arisen that maybe I haven't done before or seen before? So those were the people that I took things from. And then, of course, you're right, you actually sit there and go. I'm not going to do it like that person, just did it because I was diabolical. So you take the good bits and you kind of go yes, replicate that. Look at the bad bits and go. Try never to replicate that.

Jenny Cole 04:57

Yeah, yeah. And so how would you describe your current leadership style, now that you've had time to refine it?

Loretta Wholley 05:09

I think I'm definitely relational. You know, if we were to talk all the jargon, I've always said I'm relational and transformation. So it's all about the people. And then it's about change. I love change, so I love making things, tweaking things, innovating, moving, shaking, doing things differently, thinking outside the box, all of those kinds of things. So I like those two things. I think they really go together.

Jenny Cole 

Yeah, what does that look like on the ground If you're encouraging someone to be a relational and a transformational leader. Give me an example of what that might look like.

Loretta Wholley 05:38

So the biggest lesson for me because I love talking was to stop talking and to start listening, and I actually think that probably took me the longest time to learn, and I don't know whether it was an age thing and a maturity thing, I don't know whether it was just me actually realizing the power of listening and hearing a person's story and thinking, okay, well, what is it that they're bringing to the table? So, even if it's a disagreement, what is it that they're bringing to the table? So, even if it's a disagreement, what is it that they're bringing to the table that they're obviously passionate about, because otherwise they wouldn't be here, and how are we going to handle that together? So I think that's a really important part of being a relational leader is you have to be different with different people, but still be authentic to who you are, but be able to kind of listen and learn from others and then work out how to embrace and capture what it is that that person's strengths are and get them to use.

Loretta Wholley 06:31

That I always say you know, everyone comes to work to have a great day. So do students. Everyone comes to work to have a great day. No one wakes up and goes. I'm going to go to work today and I'm going to make someone's life miserable. No one does that. We all want to go out and make a difference and have a good time where we're going. So we've just got to work out how do we harness that for the good of all. So it's really around that building relationships, trust, getting to know people, that kind of thing. Being a little vulnerable, I won't deny Brené Brown's. You know I've resonated with a lot of the things she's written about. I've resonated with Tracey Ezzard on ferocious warmth that we can have real ferocious warmth. But you need to find the balance. Those kinds of things are very important. Like you can't be over the top because people see that as fake.

Jenny Cole 07:18

You're right. It's about harnessing those strengths or whatever qualities that you're supposed to have, not overplaying it or underplaying it, trying to get that balance just right. What do you see are good qualities in middle leaders? So, either what do you look for in a middle leader or what would you encourage other people who are perhaps aspiring to be a middle leader? What sorts of skills and qualities do they need?

Loretta Wholley 07:43

Well, I definitely want someone who has some drive and initiative, who's done some reading. So we talk about the eights or standards. I know your students and know your content and so it's really about do they know what's happening in the education world? Have they got eyes to see further than just the school that they're in? So that means you've got to be connected to professional networks. It means you've got to be reading documents when they come out, even if they're too big. Just read the synopsis. There are lots of people out there now who have made it their living to actually summarise articles, read them, correct. We thank those people.



Know what's happening around the world and how that might actually come into where they are People who are open to feedback. You've got to be open to feedback, realising where there are maybe deficits that you need to pick up and work on them, and where you've got real strengths and how you can use them. You've got to be a great communicator, and that's at three levels A great communicator with the students, a great communicator with colleagues and a great communicator with parents and great communicator with parents, and not be afraid of conflict. That's another one that I find really interesting.



So we're in an era right now where people get really angry. We've got something we need to discuss and we're going to do that calm. We're going to hear every side of the story. We're going to use some form of restorative practice so that we can both feel heard and can move forward. It might not beative practice, so that we can both feel heard and can move forward. It might not be a win-win, but we both feel heard and both can move forward. So really being able to handle conflict as well and not shy away from it because we're very bad at conflict and dealing with it, so being able to have those hard conversations is important too.

Jenny Cole 09:20

It's really valuable and I like the way that you split that communication into students, colleagues and parents, because I think quite often people have built up fabulous careers around being really good with kids and then when they move into a leadership role, they don't sometimes code switch enough and communicate effectively with their peers. And the same goes with parents In terms of teams of colleagues. When somebody might be for the first time leading a professional learning community or being a head of year or some sort of first step into the leadership rung, how do you advise that they work with their colleagues?

Loretta Wholley 09:59

Well, I think if you're clear in your vision, or you're clear in what you want to accomplish by the end of a meeting maybe, or what you want accomplished in a program, I think you get better buy-in from everyone. So that's where the communication comes in. So you've got to have that clear communication when dealing with your peers or your colleagues, because if they understand what's required of them, then they're actually quite happy to take that on. Or if they're not, they'll let you know, or if they feel like it's outside of their sphere, and then it's about then supporting that person on the journey. But it's around having those clear expectations and then that clear communication about what it is that you're trying to achieve.



If you don't have those two things and set them up from the very beginning, then what happens is you're allowing a little bit too much sway and movement for there to be not miscommunication but actually for people to kind of make up their own narrative. And once they make up their own narrative, then you've basically lost control of the situation and then you can be undermined very easily. So that being really clear from the very start and that doesn't mean you have to be all aggressive, it just means even if it's an agreed set of expectations. This is the way we're going to do things as a science department. Everyone needs to have it by this deadline. Is that reasonable? If you need extra time, come and talk to me, those kinds of things. But setting up those expectations really, really clear from the beginning. We want them like this because we've got deadlines to meet and I've got deadlines to meet, et cetera et cetera.


Jenny Cole 11:28

I think that's wonderful advice because we again moving into leadership, sometimes we're worried that people that were once our colleagues and friends aren't going to like us anymore, and so we fall into that trap of trying to be too nice, whereas setting expectations does set the boundaries and the guidelines. This is how we're going to move forward, and I think even adults like boundaries and guidelines, and it's that Brené Brown clear as kind stuff. Once we know what the guide rails are, we can work within it.


Loretta Wholley 11:57

And we would do the same with kids, right? We forget that in the end, we're all just humans, every level, we're all just humans. We, every level, we're all just humans. We all just want to know where we stand, where we fit, where we belong and what we can gain, because there's got to be something in it for us and for yourself. So you kind of got to work out where does everyone fit into this picture? And you can use so many analogies, and I've probably used way too many in my lifetime already. You know whether it's on a ship, on a bus, on a train, on a tapestry, in an orchestra, in a team, whatever it might be. But if we know what that is and where you fit in, I think that's where, once that sense of belonging happens, then that's where you start to flourish, because you know that you can actually use your skill base and you're not being asked to do things that are outside of your capacity and capability. 

Jenny Cole 12:57

Awesome advice. Any advice for new leaders for dealing further up the chainThe managing up, now that they're in a sort of leadership role. How they work with the hierarchy, the more senior leaders in the school.

Loretta Wholley 13:00

It's always a really interesting one because you know everyone's got a role and distributed leadership and things like that. So I think when there's conflict between, like, a middle manager and a senior manager, I think they're probably the hardest ones to deal with, and really I think that's when you always need a third party. And I'm going to be extreme, but initially I think it's just about more meetings, communication, really really set agendas and good minutes and details. So everyone's really aware of what am I meant to be doing once I leave this meeting, because most of the time it's around what's my job and is this in my job description? Absolutely so. It's about making sure that the jobs are being put in the right places with the right people with the right skills.

Jenny Cole 13:45

If people aren't clear of what am I supposed to be doing, what's my job? You know what are my performance accountabilities. That's where the conflict occurs, and so I think it's absolutely okay, and I'd be interested to know what you think. If people say to their line manager you know, what do you expect from me, you know if I'm doing it really well, what would you notice? It's okay to ask that of someone who's more senior or further up the hierarchy than you, and it's also okay to say I'm actually not sure how to do that.


Loretta Wholley 14:14

Yes, could I have some help in how to tackle this? Or can you help me see how I would do such and such? So you're actually putting it out there that, okay. Well, this is something new for me. I haven't done this before. Could I have some mentoring, guidance if it's a I don't know if it's a new software package some support? There's some growth, being honest, about. I actually don't know how to do that yet. Can you, you know, can we do something to prepare me for, you know, being able to take that on? You know you wouldn't throw someone into timetabling without them having learned how to use the timetable package. Yeah, I think that's great.


Jenny Cole 14:51

Asking for help is absolutely okay. I'm going to step up into a more strategic kind of big picture view. You're on a lot of, or you've been on a lot of, steering committees and members of associations. While that's amazing networking and it can be a huge impost on your time, I'm curious to know why you do that and what do you get out of belonging to those associations.


Loretta Wholley 15:17

Well, the reason why I do it is for the same reason why I make time for it, because it reminds you that your school is only part of a bigger goal in society, so that you don't stay blinkered about the way that your school does. Things must be the best way. So it kind of opens your horizons all the time, and so that's when you become strategic and that's why we're the transformational part of my leadership that I love comes into being, because by being part of all of those organizations I see bigger picture. So I kind of go well, yep, it's all good and well to kind of be just focused on one thing. You know, I got heavily involved in mental health, in the ACT and the mental health of young people, and it was initially just for my school and then it became for the whole state or the territory. And then all of a sudden I was in news broadcasts for National, for the ABC, and it was like, well, that's not what I'd planned. Initially I was just focused on the way that healthcare and mental health care and school care was working in my school, and then all of a sudden I thought, well, actually, no, there's a bigger picture around this.



And then the more committees and things I joined and went into. Before you knew it, I was writing submissions to Parliament and then, of course, I was in front of a parliamentary inquiry and, before you know it, you go. How did I get here? And I'm not an expert on mental health and wellbeing, I'm a teacher. But I could see that it was impacting education, and so that's what those committees give you. They give you that bigger picture. What is it that's impacting education in Australia, around the world? Because it is shifting. It's shifting and moving, and COVID was probably a catalyst.


Jenny Cole 16:59


Loretta Wholley 17:00

And many of us just thought we could go back to business as usual. And no other industry has gone back to business as usual but education thought they could. And of course now we've got lots of rumblings again, but those rumblings weren't new. Those rumblings around ATAR and four days a week at school, or all of those different things that are all coming back into the newspaper and the media.

Jenny Cole 17:22

Again they were there were there many years ago. Yes, covid just sped them up. In many ways they sped them up, yeah and said well, actually it can't work.

Loretta Wholley 17:30

Victoria did have a lot of lockdown. I mean, I only came in the second year in 2021 and we had locked down for 165 days in 2021 that's phenomenal and it worked well.



It didn't when I say it worked, as in the students were still given the content, were they engaged in the learning? Not everyone, but some were, and so there was something to learn from that model, and so we hung on to a little bit of it, but we didn't hang on to all of it. We realised that we still need community and schools still need to be together as people. So we know that that's important, but I think there is still some opportunity that we have to look into.


Jenny Cole 18:08

I find the opportunity that we missed is that teachers really leveraged technology and got really creative. It feels like, now that we've gone back to kids in classrooms, that some of that technology and the absolute benefit that it brings has, we've gone back to kids in rows, that some of that technology and the absolute benefit that it brings has, we've gone back to kids in rows. You know, again, those committees and associations. They allow you to see the big picture and to learn, and what I was thinking about when you were speaking about that is the temptation for many and I'm going to put female leaders is that their learning team tends to be very isolated. We open a book, we enrol in an online course, we dive deep into the research, whereas what I loved was, if you want to learn what's going on, you join and find out what the clever people and the other people are discussing.

Loretta Wholley 18:59

I think, because there's something to be gained. If you're only going to do online things, you're not going to be engaging with people who maybe make you uncomfortable or who have something incredibly new to offer that you would never have considered. So I've probably got my biggest inspiration from principals, lecturers, business people, politicians who I would never have thought that that was a good idea. Had I read it. I would have just gone no way, that just won't work. And then all of a sudden they go. But I've done this and it did work and you go. Well, I might not be able to do all of that, but I could be that little component of it and introduce that part, and that would enhance my learning environment in my workplace, and you don't get that from an online course.

Jenny Cole 19:41

No, or out of a textbook, or even sometimes from a university study, because often the content in those studies is a bit out of date. You know, just because by the time it gets to the table it's a little bit dated. The other thing that I'm curious about is you must meet the most amazing people, and how do you leverage them in terms of your networks? Do you keep in touch with those people? Do you use them as mentors?


Loretta Wholley 20:07

I think that's where LinkedIn was just so fantastic and before it became ex-Twitter, you know, I had some amazing professional learning networks on Twitter it would have been 2014. And the networks I made through there were just amazing, and I would visit a new city and check out the people that were there there, or you'd go to a conference and you'd see some of them and it was quite interesting because you used to go up and hug people and realise that you actually didn't know that person. Yes, and you'd never met them before. Yes, this was your first time in real life and in terms of some of the people I've met with in the committees that I've gone to, I sometimes look back in awe at those committees because, you know, I had politicians ringing me and asking me questions like so, loretta, do you think that we should do A, b and C?


And I'd go well. Who told you that? And they would go well. My advisor said blah, blah, blah. And I said your advisor hasn't been in schools for a long time. It was even like with the pandemic, when they were saying oh well, we could go years four, five and six. Go back first. And I said what happens when a parent's got students in other year groups?


And then you know, and I thought leave that detail to schools. Just say you want a certain percentage back, we'll work out the rest, you know. But yeah, so when I see them we'll still say hello. We're very cordial. They sometimes ask each other for favours. If I've got someone who needs a little bit of assistance with something, or they've got something where they want a guest speaker or a student to present a bunch of flowers. That's kind of how it works. You know, once you've made those networks, it works nicely.

Jenny Cole 21:38

They are really big picture kind of examples For a middle leader who's perhaps just stepping into their first network. You know, maybe a department that's in the local area. What are your recommendations about how to make the most out of that network for them, their school and their career.

Loretta Wholley 

So I think one of the first things is about those associations always have conferences. Don't just be an attender, don't be a follower. Get in there and be a creator, even if it's just about sharing something that you've got. Running a workshop. If you're a bit nervous about presenting a keynote or anything like that, then is there a workshop that you could help be a part of or a panel to be on that you could help be a part of or a panel to be on, because those are the things that will really start to get you thinking again beyond your little world, and that's where you'll start to hear more and more, because you'll start to be with like minded people within that association.

Jenny Cole 22:37

As someone who's been a lot of professional associations, I find them energising, because not only can we create things together, but they're those people that you turn to if you've got a question or you're unsure, or they also look out for you. If they know that you're aspiring to something, they'll say, hey, my school's got this. You know why don't you apply? So it can be really beneficial to kind of be in those groups, because that's where the information gets shared.

Loretta Wholley 23:03

Absolutely, and I think making those connections with other people outside of your school, so through those associations, then increases your reach. And look, I mean, that sounds a little bit the opposite of humility, doesn't it? Kind of pushing yourself out there. But it's not about being a show-off, because being a show-off people will see through that. It's really more about saying that you're ready, you know so, you're flexible, you're showing initiative, you've got drive, a certain level of determination, but not too much. I'm gonna sound like a Barbie movie in a minute, but not too much that you're going to put people off. You know you've still got to be authentic to who you are. You can still be passionate about things that you are really going to stand up for in our community, whether it's our young people, whether it's your subject, whether it's preparing our young people for the future or the world that they're going to live in, which is going to be so different, because we don't know what the world's going to look like.

Jenny Cole 

It's changing so quickly it's not about being brash, it's about being visible, because no one's going to you know, nobody's going to tap you on the shoulder in your little school and say I hear that you're doing wonderful things, here's a job. Whereas if you're slightly more visible, people will know that you're perhaps aspiring and they might start sharing things with you.

Loretta Wholley 24:17

I'm not sure if Western Australia's been really that much involved in national certification, but definitely on the East Coast. I'm a bit of a supporter of the highly accomplished and lead teacher programs and I know they're all different in every state. But the reason why I love them is because in order to work out whether you really are a highly accomplished or lead teacher, you have to have worked with colleagues. So to be a highly accomplished teacher is not just about being a highly accomplished teacher in the class, it's about how you've worked with your team. And to be a lead teacher, you've actually led a program. So those two things mean that you are being able to show those things I talked about before the drive, the initiative. You're able to actually communicate with people to actually get something up and going which will benefit students.


And that's a really important part of that whole highly accomplished and lead teacher certification. And there's even measurements there. So it's not like it's airy-fairy. It's very clear about whether you make it or you don't make it. And that's one of the reasons why, when I was in Canberra and that was a very, very strong component I think at one stage I had seven highly accomplished and lead teachers in my community because I was supporting them. I was going great, this is how you can show that off. You go here. I've got my first one. I've got my first one at Genizano. She's getting her first lead teacher program certification next year. And then we've got other people who do a different one here in Victoria because, as I mentioned, we all do our own thing.

Jenny Cole 25:43

It's the Western Australian equivalent of the level three teacher process in government schools. I don't know if the listeners heard that. The joy in your voice when you say I've got one here like that. I'm developing a lead teacher and I think that is absolutely key to anyone in leadership is to not only aspire to leadership yourself, but when you get to the point where you can start bringing other people with you and encouraging other people, it's good for them, but it's such a lovely feeling when you can say I helped them along the journey. How do you deliberately bring others along? How do you develop other leaders behind you?

Loretta Wholley 

I think it's about seeing in them where their strengths are. So it goes right back to one of the first questions you asked me where are their strengths and then really getting them to enhance that strength and then trying to get them not to be invisible to their blind spots and sometimes you can't change your blind spot or your weaknesses, sometimes it's just who you are. But if you know it's there, then you can make sure you've got other people who make up for your deficit. So I've loved working with people to help them say those things and people have helped me say mine. So I've been a principal now for eight years and at the end of last year my two deputies became principals oh wow. So that brings me tremendous joy. Now I'm not the only one who's been part of their journey by any means. I'm not taking credit for what. They're becoming a principal all of a sudden or anything like that. They've had lots of other principals in their lives and colleagues that have helped them on that part of the journey. In Canberra I had again two people become principals two deputies that I had and others who moved from middle management to become deputies. So I think I'd like to say that what I do is I go right, get them into the right courses.


I love the DISC. I know not everyone does, but I love it because it's such a simple way for people to see where they work out of, when they're at school or when they're in their workplace and what might be the places that they might go rightio. Well, I actually need to make sure that I get someone who's going to be the person who looks over the detail. I'm not a details person, so I always need someone who's a details person who's going to do all the research, look into things. I need the reminder person who goes how's everyone feeling about this, loretta? And I kind of go oh forgot about that, okay, go back, stop, slow down a little bit those types of things. So I love the DISC, and so we're just about to do that with all of our 40 middle managers here next Thursday.

Jenny Cole 28:23

Oh, wow. From memory and just by listening to you, my guess is that you're a D well and truly so big picture strategic, and so sometimes, as you just said, you can forget about the people, and so being a good leader means surrounding yourself with people that fill in those gaps and weaknesses, just as you said.

Loretta Wholley 28:35

Yeah. So it's really about knowing that, because if you don't help people as a leader, as a principal, if I can't help people see that that's part of the journey is knowing that about yourself then you can never really be a good leader. So you really need to know that about yourself first. The old know thyself, right, it's the key.

Jenny Cole 

It's absolutely the key and some of it comes with maturity. But there's a reason why there's a lot of lead self, lead others in leadership programs, because unless you're leading yourself and knowing yourself, it's very difficult to lead others. One of the things that I notice in aspiring leaders particularly women again that they'll often be hesitant because they don't know enough. Oh, I couldn't do that, I don't know everything. As I was reading your bio and looking at the complexities of your school, I thought there's no way that Loretta can know everything about everything that's going on in her school. It's just too big. So how do you manage that? Particularly that discomfort where you might not know what's going on about something but you've got end of line responsibility.

Loretta Wholley 29:42

You do have to trust your people, and your people are there for a reason. I've got 40 plus people in middle management and this year because both of my deputies became principals but they didn't actually secure those positions until quite late in the year. I have an acting deputy going into next year, but I've actually really reconsidered the way I looked at things. So I looked at the people that I had on campus and my staff that I had here and I said you're really good at doing things like professional learning and have a passion for that, so I'm going to give you that portfolio and I'm going to give you this portfolio and you this portfolio and you this portfolio, based on your skill, your capacity, your leadership ability in that area. Now I've just got to let them do it.


I've got to trust that they're going to do it and they'll report when I ask for a report. And also I would like to think that if something's not going well, they'll come and tell me which I know that they do because they do it, you know and I'll go okay, how are we going to fix it? It's really about creating that level of trust. I always say you've been employed for that role, so I trust you to do that role, and when it's going well, just let me know, because I'll put it in the report to council. And when it's not going well, let me know and we'll try and sort it before I have to put it in a report to council.

Jenny Cole 30:58

So it's really about making sure that you can trust the people that are there and also I kind of heard through that is trusting the process of the hierarchy that we were talking about before, in that there's a reporting channel and you're hoping that it will get sorted before it needs to get to you and you have to trust every level.

Loretta Wholley 31:17

It must feel uncomfortable, though at times Absolutely, because I mean, I think all teachers are control freaks. That's one of the reasons why you go into teaching is that ability to be able to kind of give the knowledge you have to others. So there's a level of control in that, because you know your knowledge and then you know the people in front of you. So, without even knowing it, we're kind of work like that. So when things get out of control it can be a little bit scary when you don't know something or it's going wrong.


But I think that's where you've got to trust, as you said, all of the stages that are in there, the steps, the processes, the policies. You know everything is there really to protect, especially our students, but, you know, protect each other as well, you know. So it's all there to protect what it is to be an educational institution and to work really well for our kids. I find it frustrating sometimes when I don't know things, but other times where I go, I'm okay. I'm okay not knowing how that actually worked, just tell me that it did. Yeah, I love it. I think there's a little bit of freedom in that and maybe that's come after a few years of being a principal, but I've been able to let go of a few things and you know, there was one person I worked for that was a micromanager and that was so time consuming.

Jenny Cole 


Loretta Wholley 32:25

Like I don't know how they got the energy to keep doing what they were doing, because it was just all consuming. You just can't do it like that.

Jenny Cole 32:33

You can't know everything and you can't do everything. And I'm hearing you say you've let go of some of the I need to know over the time, which is great, because it just takes your energy away from where you're supposed to be putting it.

Loretta Wholley 32:44

Yeah, the only other thing that I find in our society and I think we got worse at this after the pandemic which is we don't let people make mistakes anymore. It's like there's no tolerance for mistakes, and I find that really sad, because we can make mistakes. Nearly everything is fixable. So sometimes people are mortified when they come to me when they've made a mistake and I go rightio, well, what are we going to do from here, because you can't turn back time, so what are we doing about it from here? You know, what did we learn from it for next time? All of those types of things. There's a lot of work for us to do as a culture of a whole society, as Australians, as the world, because all we want to do is be angry at everyone as soon as something goes wrong rather than going okay. This is a mistake.

Jenny Cole 33:28

Let's work out how we're going to fix it, and I know you've got such a keen interest in wellbeing and healthy risk-taking is so good for people's resilience, and it's one of the reasons why we have such anxiety and perfectionism particularly our girls is that we don't encourage healthy risk taking, and girls in particular are taught not to fail just to be perfect. I deliberately avoided some of the future of education questions that I would have loved to have asked you if we've had time, but instead I'm going to ask you just one more question that could be useful to our listeners, but instead I'm going to ask you just one more question that could be useful to our listeners what's the best advice you ever received as a leader, or what advice would you give to?

Loretta Wholley 34:09

people starting their leadership journey in schools Give up the idea of being liked. It's not about being liked. There's a difference between being liked and being respected for the role that you have. Not everyone's going to like you, and that's okay.

Jenny Cole 34:22

It is.

Loretta Wholley 34:22

I think that's the best advice.

Jenny Cole 34:24

It's fabulous advice. It's hard to take, it's hard to remember sometimes, but it's very good advice. Loretta Wholley, it has been an absolute delight. Thank you so much for joining me today. For those listening, I'm going to put Loretta's details in the show notes if you want to reach out. And so thank you very much. If you liked this podcast, please subscribe, rate or review or follow us so that you can hear the next episode.

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