Welcome to the Summer Camp Leadership blog. For those of us who lead summer camps, making a positive difference in the lives of young people is our passion. Turning that passion into a reality, however, takes more than the ability to lead songs, teach archery or plan craft projects. Creating camp experiences that truly transform lives takes leadership. Leadership that creates a vision for the future, leadership that inspires and engages others, leadership that remains focused and stays the course. My hope is through this blog you'll find ideas, inspiration and tools to help you be a great summer camp leader.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Being a Leader of Change

Few institutions are as anchored in history and tradition as summer camp. One of the key attractions of  summer camp is the timeless nature of the experience we offer. Year after year, decade after decade, campers experience familiar activities that generate shared emotions and memories that often transcend generations.

While this tradition can be of tremendous value, it also can be fraught with danger. The needs, interests and expectations of children and parents change. New technology challenges the way we've always done things. The competitive marketplace and regulatory environment place new demands on us. Our facilities age and become dated. Unfortunately, it is easy for us to cling to the past in the name of tradition only to find ourselves left behind and irrelevant in a changing world.  

The reality is that at some point, we as camp directors will need to lead significant change efforts.  It may be a proactive choice we make to respond to and try to stay ahead of the changing environment. It might also be the result of being forced to react to a negative trend such as declining attendance. A crisis such as the failure of some component of your facility's infrastructure might also create the need. Regardless of how it comes about, while we lead organizations of great history and tradition, we also need to be prepared to be leaders of change.

In his three classic books on change (Leading Change, The Heart of Change and Our Iceberg is Melting) Harvard Business School professor John Kotter provides a blueprint that might serve as a starting point as we begin to think about leading change. Kotter outlines an eight stage process for creating change in organizations that certainly seems to fit the camp environment. His process includes the following stages:
  1. Creating a sense of urgency
  2. Creating a guiding coalition
  3. Developing a vision and strategy
  4. Communicating the change vision 
  5. Empowering broad-based action 
  6. Generating short-term wins
  7. Consolidating gains and producing more change
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture