2 The Visionary Director is the primary nutrient for growing a quality program. We hope that this book will contribute to the ability of directors to summon the re- sources and skills to be visionary leaders for their programs—to “find the fire and pass it on.” How Can Directors Become Leaders? It’s easy for directors to feel helpless and victimized under conditions that include an ever-growing body of standards, required measur- able outcomes, and a faltering economy. There are so many factors that seem out of control. While this feeling of helplessness is under- standable, we also know that directors seldom claim the leadership potential their position offers them. Instead, they let the limitations and pressures of the current conditions constrict their imaginations and creativity. under the “be realistic” or “meet the standards” ban- ner, directors tend to stay focused on how things are, rather than on a vision of how things could be. They hope that somehow more checklists and accountability systems will “fix” the problems of try- ing to provide quality in a service that is underfunded, undervalued, and operating with an inadequate workforce. All too often, however, this added paperwork simply increases the barriers to quality instead of helping directors surmount them. It is unusual for early childhood program directors to imagine a different course or use their leadership to pursue a different vision. Our hope is that The Visionary Director will spur you into developing the leadership to pursue a new vision of early childhood. Whatever the external factors, you have the power to shape the environment around you. If you do this thoughtfully in your role as a director, you’ll find that your early childhood program can trans- form the sense of powerlessness and isolation that prevails in the lives of caregivers, teachers, children, and families. Your leadership toward that end has the further potential to influence larger social change, as Valora Washington quotes in one of her own articles: transformation of the social order often begins with an act of imagination that elevates a startling dream of change above the intimidating presence of things as they are. Further, if such dreams are passionate and clear, and if they can call a great many people into their service, they may ultimately give shape to the future. (W.K. Kellogg Foundation 1996, 3)