Leading Leaders

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.


Author: Sy Ogulnick

Sy Ogulnick received a BA from UCLA, Teacher’s Credential from Los Angeles Board of Education and completed phase I (Master’s portion) in a Doctor of Behavioral Science program at California Coast University. Sy leased and operated a summer day camp in LA. He and his wife then purchased virgin wilderness land in Northern CA, where they built and operated a coed summer camp. They moved to Las Vegas, NV, and purchased, built and operated a community children’s program for families staying in a major resort casino in Las Vegas. They have created programs for children nationwide that employed many people and in the process developed successful training programs for personnel. This led Sy to lecture on how to train staff and the creating of community within the workplace. Sy was then invited to speak at professional conferences on how best to hire and train employees, which led to his becoming a consultant in the art of improving relationships in a work environment and eventually to his epiphany that “Leaders are the primary problem and the answer to the personnel issues that arise in the workplace.” Sy has written numerous papers on the subject of interpersonal relationships, leadership and power. He has lectured throughout the United States, has been interviewed by the media and has appeared on many radio and TV talk shows

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