Cultivating a Vision
How much of your time as a director is spent nurturing hope and
giving a sense of possibility to those in your program? Are there ways
in which you are cultivating a vision as part of your regular conversa-
tions, parent orientations, and staff development efforts? The Visionary
Director contains ideas on how to move in that direction. Throughout
this book are snapshots of the many different ways directors are mak-
ing this happen. As you hear their voices, let them strengthen your
ability to guide your program with a vision and deepen your desire to
be part of this spreading movement to turn early childhood programs
into genuine caring and learning communities.

— Go back to why you’re doing what you’re doing. I don’t mean
going back to the regulations. Don’t be outer-defined. Do not
allow the regs to define who you are. Do not allow any outside
forces to define who you are. Allow for the possibility that the
regs may actually catch up with your vision. There will be a flicker
of fire that’s very exciting.

—Dana Going Beyond Managing to Leading
Guiding early childhood programs with a vision requires more than
management skills. A manager is focused on the people, problems,
and tasks at hand, using technical skills to address them. Beyond that,
working with a vision requires developing oneself into a leader who
inspires others to participate in and expand the vision. Of course,
early childhood directors who are leaders attend to management con-
cerns, but they also bring these concerns into a group focus through
vision building, what Peter Block calls “convening, valuing related-
ness, and presenting choices” (2008, 85). Leaders create management
systems and structures to support a visionary organizational culture.

Linda Espinosa, who embodies these dimensions of leadership, says,
“Leaders are those who provoke or nudge or elevate others into think-
ing, feeling, or behaving in ways they would not otherwise have dem-
onstrated” (1997, 97). Growing yourself as a leader goes hand in hand
with growing a vision.

Chapter 1 Guiding Your Program with a Vision 25

It’s pretty easy to be a star if you are a hard-working director with
aspirations. You can create some innovative things in a program and
then move on to the next phase of your career. I strive to be a leader,
not a star. A leader plans for what stays when they leave. The big dif-
ference between a leader and a star is in the size of a person’s ego. I
know that as I provide leadership, people won’t always love me and be
happy. But I’m trying to build an institutional structure that will outlast
any focus on me.

—Laura A vision can’t be handed down like a mission statement or a
memo. The ground has to be prepared, seeds have to be planted, and
tender shoots have to be protected from destructive pests and early
frosts. This requires what Sharon Kagan and Michelle Neuman call
“conceptual leadership,” which they say is “more about how we think
together about the field’s destiny and the role that early care and edu-
cation must play in a democratic society” (1997, 59), a theme echoed
by Stacie Goffin and Valora Washington (2007). As conceptual lead-
ers we continually step back and look at the big picture. We need a
working knowledge of systems thinking, human development, peda-
gogy, and group dynamics. Where can we find models to adapt for
this kind of leadership in our field?
Looking for Models
Surprisingly, it is outside the field of early care and education where
we find the most literature and training with an emphasis on lead-
ing organizations with a vision. For the past thirty years, the vision
of workplaces as learning organizations has been advancing in the
business sector, but it is only occasionally found in early childhood
programs. Corporate consultants and CEOs have been influencing
the direction of for-profit business using ideas that seem intrinsic
to the early childhood field: ideas of human development and the
processes of teaching, learning, and teamwork. Yet it is the busi-
ness world that has taken off and prospered using these concepts.

Since the 1990s, a proliferation of corporate business management
books, trade journals, and now Web sites and blogs have been dis-
cussing ideas that should be the foundation of the work in the early
childhood care and education field—build from people’s strengths,
26 The Visionary Director