Tag Archives: administrators

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!

Is Leadership Advocacy?

As I sipped my coffee watching the Early Childhood Directors filter into the Sharonville Convention Center this past Friday, I marveled at the commitment of this group of professionals.  It was an unseasonably warm, sunny day and they were making the choice to attend 8 hours of training.  Yes, there was yummy food inside, and potentially a day where they did not have to solve an emergency at their center, but they still had to say “no” to the beautiful day.

I observed a few seasoned directors confidently move around the room and compared them to the more timid, “newbie” directors.  I wondered at what point in their professional career they found this confidence.  It caused me to reflect on my tenure as a director and realized that the day I spoke up on behalf of the children in my care, I became more confident in myself as a “leader.”

On that day, I had to convince some well intentioned volunteers that painting the lobby and hallways during arrival time was endangering the children. They laughed and replied something like, “At my house, my grandkids would know not to get in the way of my paint brush.  I am sure it will be fine… you worry too much!” I realized that I needed to defend my position on safety, and defend it quickly as a few early arrivals were coming through the doors.  I briefly quoted a licensing rule, followed by my passion and concern for the children’s safety. When I added in the possibility of donuts and coffee if they would agree to paint on Saturday, I had struck a deal.

You may read that and think, “That’s not leadership! That’s just following the rules.”  At the time, I did not think of myself as a leader, and would’ve agreed with you. The moment I moved the conversation to what was best for children, however, my intention shifted from following the rules to advocating for children. Yes, ADVOCATING! While it might not have been large scale political advocacy as we often think of it, I do believe that by suggesting a different approach to the painters, albeit only in my tiny early childhood program’s society, I was advocating on my children’s behalf. I was not marching on the steps of city hall, nor was I writing a letter to a legislator, but the Core Knowledge and Competencies for Administrators defines advocacy as the action of pleading for or supporting a cause or proposal, and that’s exactly what I was doing.

A key thing happened to me that day… I found my voice!  I was able speak out on and plead for what I thought was right for children. I utilized the research that I knew, combined it with my passion about what is right for children and mustered up the confidence to propose it out loud… the first step to becoming an advocate and a leader.

I challenge you to arm yourself with research and combine it with your personal mission about what you believe is right for children. Watch for opportunities to share what you know with others less informed.  At a recent Developing Early Childhood Leaders seminar at 4C, Elaine Ward, our senior vice president/COO, encouraged our group to share our expertise with elected officials. They depend on us to inform them about what is happening in the trenches.  Although I have never considered myself a political person, I do enjoy sharing what I know about children. This year, I am taking a big step and writing my elected officials regarding early childhood in Ohio.  I found their names and contact information in the nonpartisan voting information guide published by the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area. Perhaps you are not ready for this step, but as you passionately speak to those around you about children, take a moment to consider yourself an early childhood leader and advocate!