The Art of Leadership

In early June, 4C staff traveled to Indianapolis to attend the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) 21st National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development.  The theme this year was Leadership throughout the Early Childhood Profession, and there were a few concepts that really resonated with me.

In centers where directors displayed warm and flexible leadership, the teachers were observed to be high in encouragement, sensitivity and creativity, and low in restriction. Where director’s leadership was arbitrary and lacking in warmth, teacher’s performance was rated low in encouragement and high in restriction and in lessons on rules for socializing, formal skills and control and restraint. This made me think a great deal about what kind of leader I am. How about you?

Professional standards can be expressed in the way a director values, in word and deed, self, children, parents, staff, community and profession. Ask yourself, do you continue to learn and perform at a higher level? Do you treat and respect children as worthy individuals? Do you respect all staff members as individuals? Do you acknowledge parents as the primary caregivers and final decision makers? Do you value your community partners and advocate for the needs of children?

In a session entitled “Building and Rebuilding Your Credibility,” Roger Neugebauer, author and editor from Exchange Magazine, stressed to participants to familiarize themselves with what teachers expect of their director… and to be clear on what you expect from your staff! Staff expect you to be an expert. Staff expect you to make good decisions. Staff expect you to listen.  Staff expects you to be fair. As for directors, they expect teachers to be committed to the organization, to communicate concerns and to trust them.

So, you can see there are many areas where a director cannot meet expectations, causing a lapse in credibility. You can also see that teachers have responsibility, as well. Remember, being a leader of an early childhood program requires much more than hands, the director must have a head full of information and expertise on a wide variety of topics. Take care of yourself; grow, connect, learn, risk and play. You’re never too old to learn something new!