Staying Relevant

7. Beware of permissiveness. Many mature leaders have fallen into the trap of bending the rules, looking the other way, and letting things slide so that younger leaders like them. Doormats don’t cultivate respect, so follow the rules. Be an authoritative leader.

8. Be a trusted resource. Sometime before opening day, invite one-on-one conversations about personally relevant topics. Particularly powerful is: “As busy as I might look, I will always find time to talk with any of you about whatever is on your mind.”

9. Enjoy your job. The moment you stop having fun, staff members will notice. You’ll become the opposite of what you hope to be. When you’re having fun and putting forth great effort, so will the staff. A positive tone promotes contagious happiness.

No one ever said that getting old was easy, but it doesn’t have to prevent you from living the dream. Every day camp and resident camp benefits from a few elder statesmen, whether “elder” means 30-something or 70-something.

The perspective, sound judgment and expertise older leaders can offer are invaluable, but only when their attitude inspires collaboration.

Staying relevant means offering an outstretched hand to the new crop of young leaders; it also means keeping your own head in the game by remembering what you most appreciated about the senior staff when you were a young leader — approachability.

Dr. Christopher Thurber is a board-certified clinical psychologist, father and author of The Summer Camp Handbook, now available online for free at He is the co-creator of, a set of Internet-based, video training modules for camp counselors, nurses and doctors. He can be reached via e-mail at

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