Dr Eve Poole made OBE for Gordonstoun leadership and beyond

Dr Eve Poole made OBE for Gordonstoun leadership and beyond

dr Eve Poole was awarded the Order of the British Empire on the New Year Honors List.

She vividly remembers the moment she received the news while enjoying lunch with her husband in Edinburgh.

She thought it was a hoax, and kidding, there could be many more OBEs with similar notifications lying unnoticed in her spam folder.

Jokes aside, she describes the news as a “really exciting” recognition of her pioneering work in education and gender equality.

Eve Poole has made a career of merging two different worlds. The charity and the company. church and state. private and public. Male and female.

She has paved the way for women leaders in male-dominated boardrooms and championed the concept of “character education.”

She brought this experience to Gordonstoun Boarding School in Elgin and is widely credited with breathing new life into the prestigious school.

Raise Gordonstoun out of the doldrums

Gordonstoun nominated Dr. Poole for an OBE in recognition of her leadership there and her contribution to education more broadly.

The honor raised some eyebrows as King Charles has spoken publicly about his difficult formative years at the school. However, he has also spoken warmly about his role in forging discipline and resilience.

dr Poole sees this “character development” as the heart of Gordonstoun. However, when she became its first female chair in 2015, she wasted no time in addressing her issues as well.

“It felt like Gordonstoun was lost,” she recalls. “It was struggling to keep up in the market and we had hit the doldrums.”

dr Eve Poole became the first female Chair of Gordonstoun’s Board of Governors in 2015 after eight decades of male leadership. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

dr Poole embarked on a thorough restructuring, a process which she admits was “very painful for the entire Moray community”. However, she felt this was a necessary step to ensure that the students are not only well educated but also happy and safe.

She commissioned Edinburgh University to conduct a study of what “character education” means in practice and asked the entire school community about the core values ​​that define Gordonstoun.

“It meant we didn’t cut out the wrong parts,” she explains. “We have kept the heart of what Gordonstoun really is. Today the school is back on its feet and doing really well. It’s a vibrant community that clearly knows what it stands for. I am proud to have helped save the school.”

Character education is an umbrella term that encompasses the broader social, emotional, and physical development of students beyond academic achievement. dr Poole considers it absolutely crucial to modern life.

“This is exactly what children need now. They are all busy with gadgets and suffer from anxiety and mental health issues from having to grow up too fast. What’s great about Gordonstoun is that it’s a really conscious attempt to sharpen their characters so that they can be very bold and versatile.”

Women are great leaders

This is a special interest of Dr. Poole, who studied theology and worked as a management consultant for Deloitte. She holds a PhD in Theology and Capitalism from Cambridge. These are seemingly different worlds, but for Dr. Poole, the common thread is understanding how to bring out the best in people, and Per People.

Her appointment to Gordonstoun was described at the time as “courageous” in the sense that the school had been run by men for 80 years.

“It was extremely radical,” she says. “I was the first female CEO, younger than my peers and also went to public school. I was an outsider, but that meant I had a lot more freedom to challenge things and make big changes.”

dr Poole poses next to her portrait at Gordonstoun School.

dr Poole hired the school’s first principal and financial manager. As a passionate advocate for gender equality, she sees it not just as a moral obligation, but as a practical imperative. Women are simply great leaders, and boardroom cultures will only benefit from new perspectives.

As an example, she points to the well-known “fight-or-flight” response that people experience in times of high pressure or threat. It is less well known that men and women react differently to the stress hormone. Men release testosterone, resulting in an aggressive or defensive response.

In contrast, women release oxytocin – the love hormone – and are more inclined to communicate and seek peaceful solutions. It dates back to our cave dwelling days, when the man’s role was to hunt and the woman’s to protect the children.

We’re well past the caves, but classic business approaches still tend to be masculine and aggressive. dr Poole points to a lack of female leaders and role models. Her book, Leadersmithing, defines the qualities every leader should work towards, regardless of gender.

Contact with abuse survivors

dr Poole put this approach into action when allegations of historic abuse at Aberlour Prep School, one of Gordonstoun’s primary schools, surfaced.

“Back then, a lot was hidden under the bed and the lawyers were sent out,” she says. “Instead, we wanted to face it head-on. We’ve launched a massive initiative to talk to the survivors, ask them what kind of help they need, and review our policies to make sure something like this can’t happen again. We have led the sector in this response. That was a real privilege.”

dr Poole attributes this approach to female leadership techniques. “It’s a classic male response to crouch, but women are more likely to knock on doors, pick up the phone, and communicate. This behavior feels risky for men, and women are often seen as weak leaders because of it. So we have to make it clear that this is a strategy, and a very successful one at that.”

This feminine empowerment is inherent in character education, says Dr. poole While acknowledging the well-known criticisms of private education, she also points to its strengths.

“People have mixed views about private schools,” she says. “We’re talking about Gordonstoun being comprehensive and compulsory – so everyone has to do everything, you can’t just jump off if you’d rather play the cello. This means that children have a truly exceptional opportunity to try many different things. You’ll fail at some of them, but then you know that’s normal.

“Especially with women you see yourself against guys who do everything possible. In some of them the boys are better than you, but in many they aren’t, so you’ll never feel inferior again. We’re getting some really good feedback from women in senior positions who say they’ve never been scared because they’ve had that experience of trying and failing. You are fearless.”

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