I was a leader of leaders beginning in 1949. It was then that I began to hire staff. By early 1950 I had a staff of 100 plus. Our day camp philosophy empowered the counselors and children.
I used my power as the Leader to train all staff, comprised of college students and teachers, and monitor their performances. Besides male and female counselors, there was a large staff of specialists in every activity to teach the campers swimming and every imaginable activity. Above all, living, communicating, and relating together was primary.
Working with a well-educated staff meant that each of them had to fully understand how to ensure that their small group (8 plus a junior counselor) became a community that made its own decisions about the day’s activities. The kids were not passive in this decision-making but were full participants.
How to go about making this a reality was what I trained our staff to do. Unsurprisingly, dialogue became a critical vehicle. Getting kids who are mainly used to being directed by their teachers and others to undertake their own decision-making was a significant challenge. For kids to have this power was a rarity in their families and society, but it was a must for us.
Ultimately, each counselor was a leader teaching their children to be leaders or, at the least, themselves using their own voice in deciding how each day would play out. To say it was successful is an understatement, for miraculously, children who knew only the experience of being cared for began to care for themselves and the others in their group. The growth of campers was often spectacular for many of them, and all benefited, including the staff. Leaders grew with their children, becoming better leaders in the process as the kids took on the joy and responsibility of leading themselves.
I used this same pragmatic philosophy when I worked with professionals and entrepreneurs. It was always wonderful to witness an organization becoming a safe and supportive community.