Leadership Perspectives | A Conversation with Mark Spencer

25 August 2021

A Conversation with...

 

Name: Mark Spencer
Position: Director of Public Policy | Christian Schools Australia

CSA: Great to have you along to tell us about your leadership story. How long have you been working with CSA?

Mark: I've been working with CSA since its inception in 2002.

CSA: What work did you do prior to working with CSA?

Mark: Prior to CSA I worked for a predecessor organisation, Christian Community Schools in a variety of different roles.  Way back in the age of the dinosaurs I worked in a professional Chartered Accounting practice.

CSA: What do you see are the current major leadership issues in Christian education?

Mark: In the political and advocacy space in which I spend a lot of time true leadership has become exponentially harder - reflection, assessment and nuance don't satisfy the baying Twitter mob.  I see some of the same types of responses we see from political leaders being echoed in other areas of leadership, we do what we see. Having the courage of our convictions, particularly as Christian leaders is going to get harder and harder into the future. I'm reminded of the verse in Ephesians 6:13b "... having done all, to stand firm."  We do all we can, but at some point we may merely need to stand firm.

CSA:  Describe some of the best supports in your own leadership journey.

Mark: Firstly, Jesus and the Bible, seriously, not just a pious answer!  Leaders in relationship with God, open to His Spirit and reading His Word, however imperfectly for some of us, can lead out of that, not our own strength.  I know which I'd say had the best results (from experience).  Secondly, a supportive spouse and family or close friends, real life friends who can give you the advice you need when you are not relying on Jesus or who can support you when you can.  Thirdly, I've been very blessed to work under some amazing leaders and have learnt so much from each of them - I just hope I've been able to pass that on to some others.

We do all we can, but at some point we may merely need to stand firm."

CSA: What's one piece of advice you might give to emerging leaders in education?

Mark: Never stop learning. Observe other leaders, good and bad. What makes them so? How would you have responded? Why? Don't waste the opportunity of observation. We learn from mistakes as much as successes - either the ones you make yourself or the ones you seek others making.  Taking the time to observe, to be curious, to learn can magnify the value of all your experiences. 

CSA: What role has your faith played in your leadership journey?

Mark: Leading out of your own strength and wisdom is very limiting, and not very productive.  As Isaiah says to God, 'my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways', and His ways are always the best ways!  I laugh to myself when people say some advice I've given is so wise, I'm just the messenger in those situations - and lest I get too haughty about it I also recall God speaking through a donkey .

CSA: What is your favourite CSA Resource or Tool and why? What role has your faith played in your leadership journey?

Mark: The CSA Model Constitution Toolkit, because, with apologies to Matthew, on that rock they will build their school! It is a great resource, and a vital foundation for every school.  Courts and Tribunals will look to the Constitution to determine the essential nature and character of the school in a legal sense.  Not having this clear can no only get schools into legal hot water, but also risks those in the generations that follow not having a clear understanding of the foundations.

 

Don't waste the opportunity of observation. We learn from mistakes as much as successes..."

 

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