The following is from a talk that I gave this morning at Kidscreen Summit. The session was entitled Like a Boss:  Honing Your Leadership Skills. I was honored that Donna Friedman Meir had asked me to be among such a smart group of panelists, which was made up of

  • Kate Ebner
  • Thomas Lynch
  • Maggie McGuire

 

WHAT DOES LEADERSHIP MEAN TO YOU?

I believe that a leader is an eternal optimist. She has a vision, has audacity to see that vision through, and has contagious, passionate energy to empower the right people to help make the dream a reality.

My passion is to empower kids.  I want them to know that they have a voice, and that what they say matters…even if it takes them longer to say it.  I believe that if we pause, wait, listen attentively, preschoolers (kids in general) will talk.  And what they have to say is brilliant.  My vision is to create educational shows that kids want to watch.  My approach has been to marry the very best preschool curriculum with the magic and influence of media.

I was that 4 yr old who couldn’t sit any closer to Mister Rogers when he was on…& talking to me. I grew up and wanted to make my own mark on children’s television because I did not like much of what was on for kids.  Blue’s Clues was born out of the desire to have kids learn the skills they needed for kindergarten. I wanted them to practice those skills by using their voice and “interacting”. So, we left a 4 beat pause in.

Super Why is about motivating and teaching kids to read. By leaving the pause in, kids at home are practicing literacy skills by helping our super heroes with the power to read.

With the premiere of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood this Fall, I am bringing the pause back full circle, honoring the man who taught us about the power of the pause in television – Fred Rogers. And this time we use it for the most important skills of all…socio-emotional.

 

I started in the research department at Nickelodeon. And the day that I decided to leave to finish my Master’s Degree because I wanted to “create shows for preschoolers” was the day people called my “crazy”. I got lots of push back. But I saw my future. And I love to prove my neigh sayers wrong.

I remember being on set for the pilot of Blue’s Clues thinking to myself, “This had better work out because I’m never going back!” My father in law was the one who told me that only the best & biggest accomplishments come out of educated risks. I believe he was right.

 

THE BUMPS IN THE ROAD… 

My biggest career obstacle was the day we found out that Blue’s Clues had ended its run. What? 10 years, just under 100 people who were like family working under one roof for this great show. This wasn’t just a job.

As much as I should have known that productions don’t stay around forever, I wasn’t prepared for this day. I took some meetings and my barometer was, “If I don’t feel like throwing up after the meeting, I would pursue it.”. It took a year.

I had pitched PBS’ Linda Simensky my “reading show”, which was Super Why, and the day she called to tell me that PBS wanted to make it, I literally sank to the floor. My identity was back!

ADVICE FOR UP & COMING LEADERS…

Push through the negativity. Don’t follow the status quo. Don’t ask too many people what they “think”. Follow your gut, your passion, have chutzpah, make calls, meet people and follow through on opportunities to learn in the area that excites you even if you don’t know where its going to take you. Be open. Find an outlet to get your vision out in the world. And remember that it takes a village. So find the best and the brightest, be good to them, and have them join you in making your dream a reality.