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Leadership principles learned from a 5-year-old kindergartner

CMC Corner
Maureen Stepp
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Maureen Stepp
ALL |

As I begin to prepare for a new year and new semester, I am pondering some valuable leadership lessons learned through my 5-year-old kindergartner. These lessons relate in many ways to the college freshman course I taught and to my own leadership role as an instructional chair.

In order to make it through kindergarten, it helps if you and your child are organized. By having a clean area in which to work and the right tools (crayons, glue) on hand, it helps get your child ready to learn.

For college freshmen, I help them to get organized: keeping all handouts and quizzes, getting a notebook, and keeping them all together in a neat, orderly fashion. This will facilitate studying for tests and research for projects.



As an instructional chair, I have to find answers – answers to student questions, faculty questions and budget questions. If I’m organized, I can better serve those in need.

It helps me to spend at least a half hour every morning putting things in their place before ever turning on my computer and diving into e-mails.



Time management is another important principle for all ages.

If my son is going to get his homework done on time, we have to work on it every day. It took two mornings of rushing through last-minute assignments to realize that instead, we needed a daily approach.

College freshmen have the same problem, on a bigger scale. I suggest they get a day-planner and enter dates for assignments and exams. I help them take small steps. When they’re faced with a deadline for a term paper, they need to establish due dates for having research done, an outline completed and a rough draft ready. That way, they avoid pulling an all-nighter.

As a manager, I need to block out time in my schedule to work on short-, medium- and long-term goals. If not, the daily “to-do” tasks will take over and I won’t be able to make progress towards any goal.

Priorities are also essential. To a 5-year-old, this is easy. If it’s fun, it’s a priority; if not, it doesn’t exist. So we are already struggling with the homework vs. fun question.

Luckily it is easy to make kindergarten homework fun. For 18-year-old freshmen, it’s not as black and white. They are still weighing heavily on the fun factor, but I work with them continuously on keeping their eyes on their goals.

In my job, I always ask myself if the task I am working on is leading towards a goal or not. If it is not, then I have to re-prioritize and work on those tasks that are going to help me reach my goals.

So, whether we knew it or not, we were all learning these valuable leadership lessons in kindergarten, but it took many years of working and teaching to realize it.

Maureen Stepp is an instructional chair at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Spring Valley. She is preparing for the start of the semester Jan. 16.


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