On February 25, 2017 we had the privilege and the pleasure of presenting our ideas and model for exploring leadership through a 90-minute workshop we titled, “Leadership Through the Looking Glass.”  We were invited to present at the 14th annual symposium – Here and Now: Respecting Childhood, an event hosted by the Collaboration for Early Childhood in Oak Park, Illinois for over 300 early childhood educators, caregivers, parents, and others who work with young children.  We had an audience of 35 attendees for our particular workshop, which included, educators, administrators, counselors, and community leaders.

We began our workshop by talking about leadership conceptions.   We captured their  ideas about what it means to lead as a way to open the gate to our discussion.  We then demonstrated how we came to view children’s books as a lens for reflecting and making meaning of our own leadership experiences by reading aloud Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s “First the Egg.”  We knew we were in for a vibrant and robust conversation when one of the attendees, during the reading, let out an audible “mmm-hmmm” when we turned to a profound page.  This was also the moment we knew we weren’t alone in feeling the power of children’s literature to inspire adults, as well as children.

We shared with the group how this particular book inspired leadership reflections for us, how it caused us to see the paradoxes within our choices when we lead.  Then, we asked participants, in small groups, to read one of the children’s books we brought along with us and to practice identifying leadership ideas, concepts, and reflections inspired by those stories.  After each small group worked on their own, we asked them to share a summary of their book and the leadership ideas it brought forth.

Each of the seven groups, while sharing their thoughts, generated lively conversation around leadership ideas, concepts and the challenges facing different leadership styles and contexts.  Here are a few of the comments shared by the participants:

“Very thought provoking.”
“Taught me to look at things differently.”
“Insightful and interactive”
“Inspires you to think outside the box and learn to lead!”
“Powerful introspection.”

We are grateful to have had the opportunity to share our story, our process, and inspire reflection using the beauty and joy of children’s literature.  Thank you.