An effective leader is critically important to motivate the team and provide authority. A leader will also provide strategic drive and vision along with breadth of vision to ensure that all aspects of interagency teamwork are delivered.
Leaders with graduate level qualifications make a difference: “…the evidence that demonstrates that having a trained teacher as a leader/manager and a good proportion of trained teachers on staff are key indicators of quality.” (ELEYS, 2006) pedagogy?
Intensive support to managers pays off: “Providing leadership and management training and intensive mentoring that supported the accreditation process led to significant improvements in quality (Eisenberg and Rafanello, 1998).” (cited in Mooney, The Effectiveness of Quality Improvement Programmes for Early Childhood Education and Childcare, NCB, 2007)
leadership definition is reported in the literature to be problematic (Osgood, 2004; Rodd, 2005) in terms of leadership in the early years due to the diversity of this workforce making a particularly complex field.
The early years workforce comprises a wide range of personnel, each with different experience, training and qualifications as Solly (2003) highlights the number of young and inexperienced staff working in the sector and emphasises that the specific leadership context is multi-professional and primarily female.
Additionally there is a serious lack of leadership training for early childhood managers: it is likely that many are significantly under-prepared for this role. Research based on and drawing from the work of early childhood practitioners suggests that too often positions of leadership in early childhood settings tend to be held by ‘accidental leaders’ with minimal training to carry out their responsibilities (Ebbeck and Waniganayake, 2003; Rodd, 2005). Ebbeck and Waniganayake call for clear definitions of roles and lines of responsibility, and in turn explore ways in which obstacles to effective leadership and management can be identified and overcome.
Leadership and Gender in the Early Years
Leadership in early years services very often (though not exclusively) resides in female heads of centre. There is a view that suggests that leadership styles differ between male and female leaders: recent studies do not provide the evidence to support this (Muijs, 2004).
Dalli (2005) in reflecting on professionalism in the early years highlights the importance of relationships and responsiveness in effective early childhood practice. She conducted a survey of ethics and professionalism (2003) which aimed to establish a grounds-up definition of professionalism, and found three key themes in childcare teachers’ statements about what matters in professionalism in the early childhood field in New Zealand: these were pedagogy, professional knowledge and skills, and collaborative relationships including management. In this last theme teachers felt it was important to be able to demonstrate leadership by exhibiting management knowledge and skills, being able to articulate concerns in a confident manner, demonstrating a knowledge of current educational research, and being aware of the educational political environment.
Scrivens (2002) highlights that women prefer a model of leadership which, embraces ‘power for’ rather than ‘power over’ someone. Nevertheless, women in leadership roles appear both to be able to share leadership and to take the lead when required.
Professionals in the early years have viewed themselves first and foremost as educators and child developers. They have held a narrow view of their role, mainly as practitioners, and do not fully recognise that their roles have expanded to include financial and leadership responsibilities (Muijs et al, 2004; Rodd, 1998; Rodd, 2001; Scrivens in Nivala and Hujala, 2002).
According to Solly (2003), we need to develop outstanding leaders in the early years who can both ‘maintain’ and ‘enhance’, but studies by (Rodd, 2005; Bloom, 1997, in Muijs et al, 2004) show that most leaders in early years settings in the United Kingdom found that roles most common to their work could be described as focusing more on maintenance than development suggesting there was more emphasis on management than on leadership (Muijs et al, 2004).
An important part of early childhood leadership is co-ordination between different players or interest groups (Nivala in Nivala and Hujala, 2002), including family, school and community (Muijs et al, 2004; Osgood, 2004). However, leadership studies in New Zealand report a downplaying of the importance of this kind of work – a perspective that the EPPE project outcomes can be understood to refute.
Muijs et al (2004) cite an audit undertaken by Atkinson et al (2001, 2002), in which it was found that the key to success of early childhood programmes like Sure Start involved effective leadership.
Kagan and Hallmark (2001) embraces five styles of leadership, show the need for different types of leaders, and emphasises the need for training and development in these aspects:
1. Community leadership Pedagogical leadership Administrative leadership Advocacy leadership Conceptual leadership.
Like Dalli (2003), they see a need for early years leaders to be educationally and politically aware. Additionally they see community leadership as a core capacity for development.
Shared leadership models, promoted in several studies of leadership within the sector, provide a contrast with the assumption in much of the literature that leadership is linked to a role, and open up the possibility that several people within a centre/service may be involved in leadership.
Moyles’s research-based text ‘The Effective Leadership and Management Scheme for the Early Years’. ELMS – a tool for those who are in leadership and management roles in early years settings so that they may evaluate their effectiveness. It is claimed that the purpose of evaluation of leadership and management is to ensure the best possible experiences for children and early educators; in other words, effective leadership and management are central to the quality agenda. Moyles highlights leadership qualities, management skills, professional skills and attributes, and personal characteristics and attitudes. There are no set of common expectations for leaders in early childhood (Ebbeck and Waninganayake, 2002; Moyles, 2006?)
Nupponen (2006a, 2006b) also considers that effective leadership is vital to quality services for young children. Effective leadership frameworks are needed as a starting point towards ensuring quality. Nupponen emphasises the complex external social environment in which early childhood settings operate (Bergin-Seers and Breen, 2002) and the consequent need for self- reflection.
Early childhood managers make an enormous commitment to the profession and are willing to make personal sacrifices, ie low pay, long hours and absence of benefits (Osgood, 2004). However, despite the lack of reward and limited training opportunities available for the leadership role, many early childhood professionals want to heighten their levels of professionalism and aspire to becoming a leader in their field (Osgood, 2004; Rodd, 2005).
Specific training programmes are now being developed; however, they are small-scale (Muijs et al, 2004). Where training is provided, effects appear positive (Muijs et al, 2004; Jorde-Bloom and Sheerer, 1992). Whalley’s team at Pen Green leads the National Professional Qualification in Integrated Centre Leadership.
Hard and O’Gorman cite a number of authors as they consider the leadership challenge, including MacBeath (2004), Lingard et al (2003) and Stamopolous (2003) to emphasise the ambiguities of leadership, leadership and learning links, and the association of good leadership and change, respectively (p55).
Leithwood et al write about ‘core leadership practices’ which are: setting directions; developing people; redesigning the organisation; and managing the teaching programme (p22–23). They offer a warning that ‘We have instructional leadership, transformational leadership, moral leadership, constructivist leadership, servant leadership, cultural leadership, and primal leadership (Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee, 2002). A few of these qualify as leadership theories and several are actually tested leadership theories. But most are actually just slogans’ (p7), rather than conceptually coherent ideas supported by evidence that shows the effects of such approaches on pupils and schools.
Early years education has received unequalled political attention and remains in the frontline of current government policy. This goes together with by a need to evaluate the effectiveness of such attention and expenditure. This review of the literature makes a clear case for a relationship between appropriate leadership in early years services and the effectiveness of those services: this means that two initiatives should be to the fore – the investigation of early years leadership practice and the development of sound leadership training, which could be more widely embedded in undergraduate and postgraduate early childhood courses.
Many studies have explored leadership as a ‘micro concept’– investigating leaders themselves or the immediate environments in which they work, rather than viewing leadership as a cultural system.
Leadership is relatively unexplored in early childhood. Leadership is an ‘accidental’ rather than a thought-through idea. The early childhood sector needs a contextual model of leadership, since it differs in nature, ideals, philosophies and curriculum from other forms of education.
Aubrey, C (2007), Leading and Managing in the Early Years, London: Sage Publications
Aubrey (2007) proposes that early childhood settings demand skilled and effective leadership. Her work is underpinned by research from two principal sources, British Educational Research Association (BERA) and a research report (Dahl and Aubrey, 2005).
Researchers in New Zealand made a significant contribution to an International Leadership Project: Cross-cultural reflections of leadership in early childhood education – An ILP (International Leadership Project) reflective survey, which was based at Oulu University, Finland, and overseen by Professor Eeva Hujala, Dr Veijo Nivala and Anna-Maija Puroila. The survey was conducted in 18 countries over the years 2001–2002.
These countries were: Europe: Norway, Estonia, Germany, France (4); North and Middle America: Canada, Mexico (2); South America: Brazil, Uruguay (2); Oceana: New Zealand, Philippines (2); Asia: China, Taiwan, India, Japan, Malaysia (5); Africa: Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa (3).
Ebbeck, M, and Waniganayake, M (2003), Early childhood professionals: Leading today and tomorrow. Sydney: MacLennan and Petty
Ebbeck and Waniganayake (2003) provide a number of possible definitions of leadership and provide a number of theoretical models – they propose new ways of understanding leadership in early years provision. In their view leadership in early childhood has many faces: it is connected with administration and management: they therefore emphasise that effective leadership is informed by and dependent on defining and through definition, understanding the key concepts of administration, management and leadership. An integration of these elements would allow for improved leadership approaches.
Through addressing obstacles to effective leadership, the authors show why traditional leadership theories do not work in early childhood. They make the point that discussions about leadership have been too restricted by the traditional tendency to align leadership to the position of the manager of a setting. Waniganayake proposes a new model for distributive leadership – in her model she proposes that several people can simultaneously fulfil a leadership role in the same early childhood pre-school setting. In proposing a distributed leadership model for early childhood these researchers are exploring new ways of defining leadership in early childhood: their work reflects changing views of such leadership.
Kagan, S L, and Hallmark, L G (2001), ‘Cultivating leadership in early care and education’, Child Care Information Exchange, 140: 7–10
Community aspects of leadership are emphasised by Kagan and Hallmark, who suggest that leadership in the early years can take the following forms:
1. Pedagogical leadership, forming a bridge between research and practice through disseminating new information and shaping agendas
2. Administrative leadership, which includes financial and personnel management
3. Advocacy leadership, creating a long-term vision of the future of early childhood education. This involves developing a good understanding of the field, legislative processes and the media, as well as being a skilled communicator
4. Conceptual leadership, which conceptualises early childhood leadership within the broader framework of social movements and change.
The authors stress that these different elements may require contrasting styles of leadership, and different types of leaders. They show that more training in these areas is needed. They see a strong political role for leaders in the early childhood sector, and envisage community leadership as a core competency.
Larkin E (1999), ‘The Transition from Direct Caregiver to Administrator in Early Childhood Education’, Child and Youth Care Forum, 28(1), February 1999, pp 21-32(12)
The most challenging aspects of leadership were to do with professional isolation from a peer group. The separateness of their role caused them tension, especially as they were working to be responsive and nurturing at the same time as having to be an authority figure. The author concludes by recommending ways to improve the preparation of ‘child care administrators’. Someone to act as a sounding board and someone to act as a mentor would have been valuable assets as they learned their new roles. A combination of theoretical knowledge and practical experience was perceived to be helpful.
Muijs, D, Aubrey, C, Harris, A, and Briggs, M (2004), ‘How do they manage? A review of the research on leadership in early childhood’, Journal of Early Childhood Research, 2(2), 157–160
This article reviews the research on leadership in early childhood, highlighting the ‘paucity of research’ in a context where there is a heightened potential for leadership development. Reporting that effective leadership is widely held to influence outcomes for children, the authors find that research on leadership in the early childhood sector is limited. The authors attribute this lack of research in part to the context of early childhood itself, where role definitions even for those in leadership positions reinforce the need to be good practitioners, educators and ‘child developers’ first.
Muijs et al find that theorising about leadership in early childhood is limited and does not naturally connect to leadership theory from other educational sectors, nor to a market or business model. A distinctive early childhood approach to leadership is called for by the literature they have reviewed. Further they find that the complexity of the early childhood sector and recent developments in this field call strongly for effective leadership strategies, not least because of the evidence that children attending early childhood settings show better long-term outcomes. They report that a number of studies show that organisational climate is strongly related to leadership.
Osgood J (2004), ‘Time to get down to business? The Responses of Early Years Practitioners to Entrepreneurial Approaches to Professionalism’, Journal of Early Childhood Research, 2(1), 5–24
Implications of policies introduced in the early childcare and education sector by the New Labour Government after its election in 1997. Included in the Government’s agenda are guidelines to embrace more commercial approaches to childcare management to ensure childcare services remain financially viable and sustainable. It is shown that the (almost entirely female) sample of childcare professionals in Osgood’s two studies are opposed to ‘these masculinised’, ‘new managerialised’ policies and that this commercial approach is deemed to be inappropriate in the early childhood sector. It is argued that the quality of childcare provision would suffer if business principles of profit making and competitiveness were applied. It is suggested that the top-down application of business approaches to the management of early childhood care and education settings does not do justice to the community-oriented, collaborative and caring nature of this sector.
The author articulates that recent government policies promote individualism and competitiveness and that these are in conflict with the non-competitive, collaborative community-orientated approach adopted by early childhood practitioners. It was found that early childhood practitioners are highly dedicated to their profession and are willing to make sacrifices when it comes to pay and benefits. They are devoted to enhancing their professional skills and knowledge and are keen to attend training. An emphasis on care, enhancing child development and supporting local communities as opposed to developing business skills and making profit is paramount. Practitioners feel they play a significant role in the local community and adopting business approaches in the field would be detrimental to encouraging community-orientated practice. Although they contest the entrepreneurial policies favoured by the Government, practitioners feel powerless and think they are unable to resist adoption of commercial approaches in the long run.
Rogoff, B, Turkanis, C D, Bartlett, L (2001), ‘Community of learners; Adults provide leadership and encourage leadership in children as well, in Learning Together: Children and Adults in a School Community, New York: Oxford University Press
1. Sharing a philosophy of practice: to establish what a leader and his or her team believe is important
2. Considering the trade-offs between efficiency and the time and energy needed for collaborative learning and decision making
3. Finding ways to use conflicting views and change as learning opportunities.
Scrivens, C (2001), Leadership in early childhood: National reflections. Paper presented at the New Zealand Association for Research in Education Annual Conference, Christchurch, NZ, 5–8 December, 2001
Scrivens reports on a research study undertaken in New Zealand as part of the International Leadership Project which is being administered in 18 countries worldwide.
The author states that views documented in this report can be linked to other studies in early childhood leadership research; the early childhood leader is found to be supportive, collaborative and professional. In addition, early childhood professionals work in concert with an ethics of care; for children, staff, families and the community. This paper specifically documents on the responses of New Zealand early childcare leaders in relation to the following questions:
Many managers/leaders emphasise the importance of supporting staff, teamwork and working with parents. These aspects were manifest in the responses of supervisors in this study as value enhancing and developing their knowledge and skills. They deem their own and their staff’s personal and professional development to be of crucial importance to improving the quality of the service they provide. Working collaboratively is also referred to as being essential. Finally, advocacy for the centre’s children, families and staff is seen as imperative.
Scrivens, C, and Duncan, J (2003) What decisions? Whose decisions? Issues for team leaders in decision-making in New Zealand childcare centres. Paper presented at Our Child, The Future, Adelaide, Australia, 5–8 May 2003
Scrivens and Duncan report on their project which looks at the process and issues of decision-making by team leaders in New Zealand childcare centres. Early childhood leaders were asked two main questions:
1. Describe the decision-making that you are responsible for in your own centre.
Siraj-Blatchford, I, Sylva, K, Muttock, S, Gilden, R, and Bell, D (2002), Researching Effective Pedagogy in the Early Years, London: DfES
This report looks at the features which make for effective pedagogy in the early years, as found in the effective Provision of Pre-school Education Project (EPPE) (Sylva et al). All of the case study settings in this study were found to have sound leadership, good communications, and shared and consistent ways of working amongst the staff. Where parents became involved in educational leadership and worked with children’s learning at home, child outcomes were strong. The EPPE Project found a strong relationship between the qualifications of the centre manager and quality of service provision in early childhood settings.
Whalley, M (2002), Early years leaders involving parents in their children’s learning, Creative Waves. Discussion Paper on Future Schools, National College for School Leadership, presented at BERA, 2002
It is crucial for leaders and staff to be reflective and willing to develop their own practice. Improved co-operation of early childhood professionals with parents as part of that will mean a big step forward for children’s learning and development.
Whalley, M, Whitaker, P, Wyles, G, and Harris, P (2005), An Enquiry into the Impact of a Leadership Development Programme on Leaders of Integrated Early Years Centres, Derby: Pen Green
Pen Green Research Centre, under the leadership of Margy Whalley, developed a Leadership Programme. This study investigates the effects that the programme had on those integrated centre leaders who took part. Further, the study sought to establish the impact of their learning on the centres they lead.
Good partnership working creates an experience for families that feels seamless, with tailored support based around their needs. Children’s centres adopt different approaches to ensure that every part of the community, regardless of ethnicity or faith feels that they can really help them. Consultation with local communities is an essential ongoing activity to ensure that services reflect the needs of all fathers and mothers, and are improving continuously. Centres should involve parents actively in the design and delivery of services as an effective way to:
Build stronger partnerships with the local community
Develop their confidence and skills
Increase the community’s capacity to improve local outcomes and quality of life.
Sure Start was one of the Labour government’s most ambitious attempts at tackling extreme deprivation and the cycle of social exclusion in the UK.
Sure Start has focussed on the health and welfare of children under the age of four (and their families) in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation. The aim has been to give children the best start in life through service provision to support them and their parents (Barnes et al 2005).
Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) were locally defined, but every Sure Start had to contribute to the following set of objectives:
• To improve children’s health;
• To improve children’s ability to learn;
• To improve children’s social and emotional development;
• To strengthen families and communities (Eidenstadt 2002).
To meet these goals, every Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) had to offer a core set of services to parents that lived within their catchment area.
• Outreach and Home Visiting
• Support for Families and Parents
• Support for good-quality play, learning and childcare experiences for children
• Primary and community health care, including advice about family health and child development
• Support for children and parents with special needs
However, the precise activities and services provided by each SSLP was not defined centrally, but by context-specific parental demand for local services
As Sure Start was a long-term investment in child health and in tackling social exclusion, the government recognised from the outset that its effectiveness would only be known in the medium- to long-term, and that evidence of ‘what works’ would, in time, feedback into the design and implementation of SSLPs (Eidenstadt 2002).
Sure Start has certainly had its fair share of problems (Glass 2005). Arguably, there have been shortcomings. First, whilst Sure Start focuses on the most deprived areas of the country, not all children living in poverty reside in these areas. What about children living in poverty in relatively affluent areas? The tight geographical targeting caused problems and conflicts within local authorities and between different stakeholders. Moreover, in some cases these conflicts were exacerbated by the high levels of parental participation and involvement in governance of centres, opportunities that were not available to parents in non Sure Start areas. Second, that the multiple stakeholder approach to service provision was problematic at the national level, despite working well at the local level. The initial partnership between health and education ministries was abolished, and control switched to the Department for Education and Skills. This change reflected a shift in thinking from a resolutely child-centred perspective, to a approach which emphasises training, work and childcare – what Glass (2005) refers to as the ‘employability agenda’. Many Sure Start programmes have suffered from a lack of male staff in programmes (Meadows et al 2006). Overall, this was reflected by a lack of involvement/ engagement by fathers (Lloyd et al, 2003).
The Childcare Act 2006 imposed duties on local authorities to improve the well-being of young children in their area and to secure early years services for families.
Bennis (1989:17) argues that ‘leaders learn by leading and learn best by leading in the face of obstacles’
Different types of leadership
• Consultative: In this style the leader confers with the group members before taking decisions and, in fact, considers their advice and their feelings when framing decisions. He or she may, of course, not always accept the staff advice but they are likely to feel that they can have some influence. Under this leadership style the decision and the full responsibility for it remain with the leader but the degree of involvement by staff in decision taking is very much greater than telling or selling styles
• Democratic: Using this style the leader would characteristically lay the problem before his or her subordinates and invite discussion. The leader’s role is that of conference leader, or chair, rather than that of decision taker. He or she will allow the decision to emerge out of the process of group discussion, instead of imposing it on the group as its boss (the Joining style).
What distinguishes this approach from previous discussions of leadership style is that there will be some situations in which each of the above styles is likely to be more appropriate than the others.
• Selling: The selling style would tend to fit situations in which the group leader, and he or she alone, possesses all the information on which the decision must be based and which at the same time calls for a very high level of commitment and enthusiasm on the part of group members if the task is to be carried through successfully.
• Consulting: The consulting style is likely to be most appropriate when there is time in which to reach a considered decision and when the information on which the decision needs to be based lies among the members of the group.
• Joining: The joining style is appropriate under similar conditions, with the important exception that this is likely to be appropriate only in those instances where the nature of the responsibility associated with the decision is such that group members are willing to share it with their leader, or alternatively the leader is willing to accept responsibility for decisions which he or she has not made personally.
Bass ; Avolio ( ) suggested that transformational leadership is closer to the prototype of leadership that people have in mind when they describe their ideal leader, and it is more likely to provide a role model with which staff want to identify.
Transactional leadership has been the traditional model of leadership with its roots from an
organisational or business perspective in the ‘bottom line’.
Covey suggests that transformational leadership “… focuses on the ‘top line’” and offers contrast between the two (a selection being):
Transactional Leadership builds on man’s need to get a job done and make a living however it Is preoccupied with power and position, politics and perks
• Follows and fulfils role expectations by striving to work effectively within current systems
transformational Builds on a man’s need for meaning Is preoccupied with purposes and values, morals, and ethics
• Is orientated toward long-term goals without compromising human values and principles
• Focuses more on missions and strategies
• Releases human potential – identifying and developing new talent
• Designs and redesigns jobs to make them meaningful and challenging
• Aligns internal structures and systems to reinforce overarching values and goals Comparison of Transactional and Transformational Leadership (Covey, 1992)
Both kinds of leadership are necessary. Transactional leadership has remained the organisational model for many people and organisations who have not moved into or encouraged the transformational role needed to meet the challenges of our changing times.
Bolden, R., Gosling, J., Marturano, A. ; Dennison, P.(2003) A Review of
Leadership Theory and Competency Frameworks. Exeter: University of Exeter.
Goleman, D. (2000) Leadership That Gets Results. Harvard Business Review. MarchApril 2000, 78-9
Henderson-Kelly and Pamphilon (2000, p. 9) believe there is a need for “further research in order to determine what supports and underpins effective leadership in this family-focused, female dominated, and often under-resourced field”. Muijs et al. (2004, p. 160) also highlight the consequences of the lack of engagement with the concept of leadership, suggesting “the relative lack of research activity on leadership in the field and by association the lack of leadership development programmes would seem to be a major oversight given the growth and importance of the EC sector”.
EYS has a non-hierarchical structure and is dominated by women (Ebbeck ; Waniganayake, 2003).
The high proportion of women in leadership roles in the sector may be one explanation for the “potential aversion to leadership often found in the sector” (Muijs et al., 2004, p. 159). The importance of developing models of leadership that maximize the leadership strengths of females who numerically dominate the sector has been stressed by Henderson-Kelly and Pamphilon (2000) who suggest that these strengths include wisdoms related to people, emotions, roles and resources.
there appears to be no clearly accepted definition of leadership in ECE (Ebbeck ; Waniganayake, 2003; Hard, 2004). This lack of understanding and consensus on what leadership involves has been attributed to the “complexity of the field and the wide variety of programme types” (Schomburg, 1999, p. 215). Rodd (2001, p. 10) argues that “leadership is a contextual phenomenon, that is, it means different things to different people in different contexts”. Scrivens (2003, p. 30), drawing on Southworth’s (2002) work, agrees, contending that “there is not just one way to be a leader” and that “leadership will vary from culture to culture and situation to situation”.
Transformational leadership: leadership with a motivational and change orientated focus.
Skills perspectives: thinking about knowledge and skills needed to get the job done.
(Northhouse (5th Ed), 2010)
Applying leadership paradigms
Transactional leadership: focus on clear structures, rewards and punishments, obedience: bureaucratic.
Transformational (charismatic, focus on goals) (Weber, 1947)
Situational / Contingency model: ‘situational contingency’ identifies task or relationship focused leaders and suggests ‘no ideal leader’ but situation fit is key (Fiedler, 1967
Participatory leadership (focus on respect, engagement, interaction makes meaning, involves ‘bridging’ social capital, importance of stories)
(Yukl, 2002; Ladkin, 2007)
Authentic leadership focus on leader life story and inner world (self knowledge, concept, regulation); authentic interactions, people ‘buy in’; moral purpose (Shamir ; Eilam, 2005)
Leader as personality traits and characteristics?
‘great man’ theories, skills for relationships, role of charisma and vision, personality traits, social intelligence (Northouse (5th Ed), 2010 :19)
“This Framework is designed to help…by providing a clear set of leadership attributes, skills and knowledge drawn from the experiences of those charged with developing integrated working practices and informed by the most recent leadership and service delivery developments within the children’s services sector, as well as the new challenges presented by the changed financial agenda within the public sector.” (CWDC, 2010, p5)