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!
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.
I love this Angela. I wish that I had heard your talk in person today, and I can’t wait to meet you someday. Brilliant. Onward and Upward!
Thanks Suzi for the compliments. May we all go onward & upward!!
WOW! I wish I could attend Kidscreen Summit today, I am literally in walking distance but cannot make it out of my office because I am so swamped! 🙁 What a great motivational story/speech. I too am struggling with trying to work my day job, and then go home to produce fun, educational content for kids on my own time. It sure ain’t easy doing both – so I commend you for taking that leap and going for it!
Thanks for the motivation, I’m going home tonight to continue working to push my project! Hopefully I too can make a leap….soon! Enjoy the rest of the summit!
It’s absolutely tricky when life puts SO much on our plates. But from time to time it’s necessary to step back and address what we REALLY want, what would make us most happy and then GO GO GO!!!
Thank you for commenting Tiffany & good luck to you 🙂
Robert Campbell often spoke about the concept of following one’s bliss. There’s a palpable resonance to your work which extends beyond the boundaries of personal accomplishment. The invaluable legacy of helping millions of parents foster a culture of learning for preschool children can not be understated. Thank you for all that you do.
Thank you, Vincent, for drawing such an amazing parallel and for sharing your kind thoughts. I’ve always been driven by my passion for children and giving children a voice and the respect that they deserve.
Thank you for sharing that vision and for all that you do, as well!
Angela, you know I’m a huge fan and I love all your articles but this one is probably my favorite one yet!!! I wish I could have heard your speech in person but reading here was a close second!
You are such an inspiration, thank you for passing on your knowledge and your enthusiasm…it means so much to those of us still in the trenches 🙂 I have printed off the last paragraph of your speech and have it on my desk as it is a great reminder to keeping going and to follow my passion even on those days when it feels really tough!
I’m so glad that you kept following your dreams because you’ve helped so many little ones grow and develop their sense of curiosity and wonder!
You do wonderful work! I’m so glad that you are following your dreams and that your family is right there with you, in the kitchen, helping you fulfill them every day. That’s passion! And figuring out a way to include those you love in that passion is just plain brilliant. I’m excited to be part of your journey and watch you continue to grow!
Angela – I found your site through voiceBoks, and I’m so glad I did! My kids are HUGE fans of both Blue’s Clues (the 2.5 year old) and Super Why (both the 2.5 and 5.5 year old) and they love it BECAUSE of the pauses, because they feel they’re an integral part of the show and get to use their minds as they watch. Your words are truly motivational. Something I hope to apply for myself in the months ahead as we face huge changes, and words I hope I can pass down to my kids as they move forward with their lives. Thank you!
Wow! This was great! Inspirational and true. My passion is helping others discover their passion and internal drive so reading this was like breathing easier and with pure oxygen. I couldn’t agree with you more about letting children find and use their voice-it’s the quickest way to teach them and let them grow at the same time. Glad to have found you and appreciate your words. Thanks!!
Thank you! This was just what I needed to read today. I love how you took your passion and ran with it. That is something I’m learning to do now. Thanks for the great advice. I really related to don’t ask too many people for their opinion. I have learned to keep my inner circle small because I have found to many cooks in the kitchen don’t help me! Great post!
Wow, what an inspiration you are to so many. Thank you for sharing this great advice and information. I love that you knew your dreams early and went for it, even though everyone else thought you were crazy. I’m always looking to prove my neigh sayers wrong too! Nothing infuriates me more then when someone tells me I can’t or shouldn’t do something that’s important to me. Especially when it’s for a great cause.
So true! Leaders should be optimistic and have different perspective in handling company’s issue. Great leaders can turn problems into business advantage.