Leadership 2020

The children who were the focus for Leadership 2020 when I began writing about them in 1997 are no longer children.  Their children will soon take their places, and the efforts that were being made eighteen years ago to replace a one-size-fits-all school system with one that would support the uniqueness of each individual child have fallen on deaf ears.

That thought occurred to me this morning because I’m visiting my grandchildren.  They are just about the same age as the kids in my class that year. When the phrase “Leadership 2020” crossed my mind for the first time in August 1997, I was on my way home from vacation to teach another year of 4th and 5th grade.  As it turned out, that was to be my last year in the classroom.

I listened to two audio books on that trip home, and together they changed my life.  Joseph Jawarski’s,  Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership opened my mind to the fact that the children in my class would turn 30 in the year 2020. As I thought about when my students would assume positions of leadership, I realized that the President of the United States only has to be 35 years old!

Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ made me realize that if those young adults were going to have the skills necessary to move into positions of leadership, we should be creating learning environments within which they could practice those skills.

That idea took over my mind, and a year later, through a series of unexpected, but synchronous events, I found myself leaving classroom teaching, moving to a different state, and focusing on a vision that I thought would impact the future of public education.

So now, here I sit, 18 years later, only 5 years before what I thought to be the “target date” for Leadership 2020, wondering what went wrong.


The answer?  Nothing went wrong.  The children of the generation that was dubbed “Gen X” in the 1990’s have given birth to a generation that we are calling “Millennials” … who, in turn, are beginning to have children that one writer is calling the generation of “Homelanders.”

Systemic change does not happen overnight.  In fact, true systemic change does not even happen in one generation.  It occurred to me this morning that my son – and the children who were in my last 5th grade class – are now becoming the parents, teachers, and leaders who are questioning the restrictive one-size-fits-all school structures.  And what is even more interesting to me is that they are not necessarily railing against them; some have simply decided that they want something different for their own children and have chosen homeschooling, charter schools, or if they can afford it, private schools.  Others are becoming more involved and are seeking ways to improve the system from within.

The house is quiet now.  My son has taken 6th grade Mason to middle school.  My daughter-in-law took 1st grade Miles and 4th grade Reese to school and will be a substitute teacher there today.  And I have time to think.

Sometimes I talk about “20/20 hindsight.” That’s when I look back and think “if only I had done things differently.”  I need to stop those thoughts as soon as I become aware that I’m going down that path again.  It’s fine to learn from the past … but it is not fine to live there and regret decisions made or roads not taken.  Instead I need to step back – consider the larger picture – and envision a future when the children of the children of the kids in my class in 1997 are in charge.

We have a choice.  We can let fear color our thoughts and dim our vision, or we can look into the faces of our grandchildren, encourage their sometimes faltering or misguided attempts at leadership, and help them fully develop their own unique potential.

September 18, 2015


My purpose for creating this website is to have a place to organize and process my thoughts about kids and learning in a way that feels authentic.  I’m not sure if Growing Leaders it will turn out to be a book – but I don’t have to decide that right now.  Right now I’m posting the 13 pages of introductory material and the table of contents.  I’ll revisit and add to this page as I feel I’ve finished a new section.




7 Responses to Leadership 2020 Comments (RSS) Comments (RSS)

  1. Bette, I so agree. With each day I’m seeing new (and much younger) teachers coming through with different lenses than I had. Some are embracing much of their training, but more importantly are acknowledging the differences within their room and the importance of seeing each child. However, I’ve also experienced teachers coming through with limited people skills! They lack the ability to listen and respond to humans. I wonder if systems are able to change if people are not willing to take a closer look at their own shortcomings. While we need to embrace ourselves as we are, there is always room for improvement!
    Thanks for sharing.

    • I love the way you put this, Johanna …. they do come with “different lenses.” I’m not sure if I told you about my granddaughter’s teacher, Kim Combs. She job-shares with another teacher who has a child at home – but Kim’s other job, though, is a non-profit that she started called Common Ground. I’m having trouble finding that website right now … but it’s linked to this one that wants to introduce a billion people to Emotional Intelligence: http://www.6seconds.org/. I think you’ll like that site! Pass it along if you do …

  2. Bette, I’m not sure what kind of response you want, but I thought your writing was very good. I was waiting for some detail, I suspect, about what it would look like for a child to become a leader. Is this your target? Is your goal to educate children in such a way that they become leaders? Maybe what I’m asking is “How do you grow a leader?” Is the assumption that all children, properly educated, can become leaders? Perhaps, in the end, we are all our own leader and therefore, we must be able to draw on our own strengths. Clearly, education happens in everyday life as well as in the classroom. Fascinating subject.

    • THANK YOU, Shirley! As always I appreciate your insightful comments. I think that I told you my intent with this site is to organize the material I’ve already written. This page is basically the introduction to a possible book and the detail will unfold in subsequent chapters.

      Yes…my goal is as you said, “to educate children in such a way that they become leaders.” You also hit my central point on the head: “…we are all our own leader and therefore, we must be able to draw on our own strengths.” The current tagline is “Learning Environments for the 21st Century.” My premise is that everyone functions as a leader … in our families, communities, churches, organizations, and, of course, as the “leader” who makes the decisions that shape our own lives – as you point out. Dan Goleman’s next book was “Working with Emotional Intelligence.” That book takes EQ skills into the community and workplace. My point is that we must create environments where kids can practice the leadership skills that will serve them as adults – regardless of their level of leadership.

      I don’t know if you clicked on the first 13 pages. That was what Geoffrey read (yikes!! 2 years ago!) and I have made the changes that he suggested. I’m going to take the “Expanded Table of Contents” down because that’s really just draft material that I wanted to keep. Now that I’m starting to work on this project again I’ll probably take it down as I update it. This isn’t a public site so I like the fact that I can write to a real/imaginary audience! :-)!

      • HI again, Shirley! You just left my place a little while ago so I thought I’d send this to you since you said you didn’t think you knew that I had replied. When you reply to this make SURE to check the little box below “Post Comment” that says you want to know when others post on this Thread.

        That’s something I didn’t know when I started this site … Much more to learn I’m sure!

  3. Beautiful writing. Personal and practical, easy and elegant.

    Love the intro and piece on perception. The section on attitude begins with the same spirit but then seems to me to become too “heavy.”

    The spirit returns in the section on experience.

    I’m going to borrow (with attribution) the five thinking tools.

    The challenge to users will probably lie in the later structure of the book. A set of tools sometimes just gets boring. I’ll get to them next.

    Perhaps you could use the notion of goal based scenario or project or … (Cf early chapters of my book!) to assist readers to construct a container or frame that makes the practice compelling?

    • Thank you, Geoffrey, especially for the suggestion about the middle part. You were right and I’ve revised it. I’ll get back to the sections about tools later. I’m not sure how those should be presented. Each one could be an e-book by itself could summarize for this blog. More shall be revealed . . .

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