I recently had the pleasure of conducting an LPI workshop for the board of a cooperative preschool. I went in with a lot of assumptions about the simplicity of the issues they faced. Leading in a preschool environment, simple right? Leading with lots of help, it's a co-op after all, easy right? Wrong! I was humbled by the challenges they face and impressed by the way in which they embraced leadership as a means to address those challenges. They are all parents of small children. This is a high maintenance time of life: schedules are packed and plans change, a lot. Their time is limited and yet they made leadership development a priority. They share a core value of wanting to have their kids in a place that is safe and nurturing while they are at work. What they struggle with is a vision for how they can successfullyimpact change because they are so caught in the challenges of the day to day. In order to create and support such a place they do a lot. They are all expected to serve on the board at some point while their child attend the school. This means they are often placed into roles they feel unprepared for. This board rotates completely every year. The positive of this is there is limited time they have to dedicate to the board, the negative is they feel there is limited time to make substantive change and little opportunity to mentor future parents so they can benefit form experience. The other challenge is the co-op system itself. They are all equals, they are all "owners", so who's the leader?
This was a perfect example of the concept "Leadership is Everyone's Business" and they recognized that. They embraced the LPI as a way to show them how they could be more effective individually and therefore have more impact collectively. They used the LPI results to dig into opportunities for them to individually stretch so they could have impact and the school could flourish. It spoke volumes to me on the power of shared values. It also reinforced for me that being an exemplary leader is never easy. In the small little world of preschool, the challenges in effective leadership are not small. What I witnessed was a group of leaders with shared values who seized the initiative to be more effective individually so they could be more effective collectively. I also saw parents who were modeling the way for their children by stretching, learning, and leading.