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7 Questions on Leadership with Dr. Cynthia Knight

Name: Dr. Cynthia Knight

Title: CEO/Director

Organisation: Choice Charter School

Recognized as one of Iowa’s most progressive leaders of intervention strategies in education, Dr. Cynthia Knight brings an outstanding set of credentials to Iowa Net High Academy/Jordahl Academy. Dr. Knight received her BA from the University of Iowa, MAE from the University of Northern Iowa, and her Doctorate from Capella University She has addressed the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Iowa Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, National Alternative Education Association, and the Iowa Association of Alternative Education. Dr. Knight has served as a college professor for Viterbo University, Upper Iowa University, and Iowa State University.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Cynthia's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Keeping up with the rules and regulations in the area of education. There seem to be a lot of them and they change frequently.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I saw the need to help young people earn a high school diploma. 4,000 students were dropping out, so I starting researching, talking to the experts, talking to the students and then I created a program to help them. Once Iowa changed the charter school law, I applied and was granted the first founding group charter school in Iowa.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I get up around 7 am and have breakfast and then go for a 30 minute walk upon getting up, then I look at all the tasks that need to be done and the meetings I am involved in and prioritize the tasks. Lunch is between 11 and 1. I have a administrative meeting every day at 3. At 4 I greet my grandson from school and then play with him. I cook supper between 6 and 7:30. Then I do check my emails again. Bedtime is around 8:30 to 9.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

I have had to learn not to react to things immediately. Pausing is a good thing, but it is hard for me to do.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Brene Brown's book, "Dare to Lead" was the first book I read on leadership. Putting her practices of vulnerability, being brave and kind have shaped my leadership. Not always having the answers and being ok with that brings your team closer together.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Learn from those who have gone before you. Read books on leadership and make that a priority.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

In an administrative meeting, I really made our principal so angry with what we were talking about (staff not performing to my expectations) that he left the meeting. It wasn't until the next day (learning to pause) that we worked through what was said, how it was perceived and how I can better communicate going forward so that the message being received was what was intended.

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