Tag Archives: directors

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!

Keeping the Passion

When I first started as a director in an early childhood program, let’s just say I was in over my head. I was fortunate enough to have predecessors who were only a phone call away and able to throw me a life vest now and then. Even so, it seemed like the life vest would quickly deflate and weeks or even months would pass before I was able to come up for air. Every day I would walk in to my center with a list of things I wanted, needed, to do before I walked out the door. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time putting out fires, and that list caught fire and burned up before naptime.

I think that’s just part of the job. There was filling in when teachers called out, comforting sick children, doing bus runs, talking to parents and although these “fires” were enjoyable to me, there were other things I needed to be doing. What really wore me out was the administrative stuff:  hiring the right people, motivating those who were already hired and keeping morale high. Even though I was the person people looked to for leadership, the person responsible for making the big decisions, I didn’t see myself as “the boss.” Passion is a huge part of being an effective child care provider and I wanted to be the one to keep the passion, not manage time off requests.  And because most of the time I was busy with the everyday stuff, I never really understood the administrative side of being a director.

I remember after one particularly busy day, I went home and said to my husband, “I just wish I had a manual.” I wanted a guide on how to be a more effective administrator. 4C’s Beyond Survival series was developed for directors like us, for directors that want to do more than put out fires. If you want to to keep the passion and still get the job done, register for the Beyond Survival series.

Beyond Survival: The Step-by-Step Guide to Being a Successful Adminstrator will be offered this fall in Northern Kentucky, Butler and Clermont counties.