The challenge for this blog is not to make it pages and pages long! There is so much I could write about leadership, specifically in the Early Childhood Education Sector, that I will merely touch on some aspects.
While the study of management is often included in the study towards an early childhood teaching qualification, the same cannot be said for leadership, which would probably be more useful! This lack of opportunities for leadership training, along with limited access to experienced role models and the apparent reluctance of women in general to hold roles that involve power and authority, have acted to impede the development of understanding of how leadership pertains to early childhood (Rodd, 2006)
Effective leadership can be summed up in a quote from Leroy Eims “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do” leaders don’t get bogged down in detail, they see the big picture and can solve problems before they even arise. In the early childhood profession we can see leadership is about working towards creating a community and providing a high quality service. To achieve this goal, leaders must:
- Offer inspiration by sharing thoughts and ideas
- Be a strong role model
- Influence the behaviour of others, particularly staff and parents to contribute to a creative service by giving direction, finding ways forward and articulating a strong sense of direction
- Building teamwork, working collaboratively and inclusively to administer the service efficiently
- Supervising staff and guiding families in ways which will enhance their personal growth, empowerment and professional development
- Plan for and implement change in order to improve organisational and professional effectiveness
If you are a leader, you are in power! That nasty P word that many of us (especially it seems, women) shy away from. Power is not a dirty word and the idea should not be avoided. It is what you do with this power as a leader that counts. Being in a position of power means you should not have to justify your decisions as you have worked hard to have your team on board with them from the start. As the late Margaret Thatcher used to say, “Being in power is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t”.
Another aspect of leadership many struggle with is delegation…if I do it myself, I know it’s been done and to my standard. Have you ever said this to yourself? I know I have! However, delegation is a very useful tool to both lessen your workload and help your team to feel satisfied and challenged in their work. Pick the right person for a task and leave them to it! If someone asks if you need help it’s because they want to help so LET THEM!!
A large part of your role as a leader is to support your team and help to problem solve any issues that arise. This can be a challenge as emotions are often running high which can cloud people’s judgement. Always be calm and reassuring, always view problems positively, have the attitude that everything can be fixed and above all don’t panic! You are their role model. Your team looks up to you to set the example, they are always watching you for this and you set the tone for everything that happens
Not surprisingly, organisational skills are pretty important for an effective leader. You have A LOT to juggle! And to be able to do this you need to have excellent time management and be able to confidently delegate to other team members. Generally, if you want something amazing to happen, it needs to be planned!
Perhaps the most important part of being an effective leader is to know your team. You need to know the details of their lives that may affect their work. While many people believe in keeping work and personal life separate, how realistic is this really? It has also been shown that leaders who distance themselves from employees can result in a disjointed, unconnected workplace and unhappy employees feeling unsupported. You may be the boss but you can still be friends and have fun together. Are you giving them enough challenges? Do they feel valued? It is important to remember that while some may be happy with the level of support they are receiving, others may not. Everyone is different and so the amount of support and challenges needed will vary. Open, honest discussions are the key to making everyone happy and you as the leader need to be approachable and helpful for that to work.
Interested in learning more about this topic? Check out our course – Leadership in Early Childhood Education – via the Online Learning Hub.