Leadership in Early Education

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Definition of Leadership

“Leadership is a process where individuals influence others to achieve objectives and directs their institutions in ways that make them more coherent and cohesive. A leader can carry out this by applying his/ her leadership attributes like knowledge, values, skills, ethics and character.” (Rodd, 2006) Managers may be defined as persons who influence others through formal authority while leaders do so through their personality. Modern leaders must be deal with changing external environments and this often entails flexibility and fast decision making.

Leadership also involves listening to one’s followers. In my case, my supervisor continually made an effort to know my strengths and weaknesses in the classroom. No leadership can be effected without good communication. Within my practise, my school administration through appropriate evaluators often made a point of giving feedback about what I had taught the children and they usually listened to what I had to say as well.

The concept of Leadership also involves eliminating all the barriers to success. In my case, my supervisor had to deal with rivalry and negative competition among children in the classroom. Clear role clarification is quite crucial within the classroom environment. During my practice, my supervisor made sure that when the children were given assignments in class, there was someone to collect all the work and hand it to her. She was also sure to let the children know about what her expectations were for them. She was sure to clarify to them her definition of excellence and what they were to achieve.

Differences between Leadership and Management

Leadership differs substantially from management and the most important issue that separates these two groups is their capacity to motivate others. In this regard, managers motivate their subordinates by offering them incentives or rewards while leaders motivate their followers through their charisma and transformative styles. During practice, I was motivated by other older teachers to work hard and achieve the ultimate goals I had set for myself. The older teachers would frequently enter class on time and would make sure that all the classes were fulfilling. In so doing, I was motivated to do the same.

Leadership entails having followers while management involves having subordinates. In other words, leaders do not use their formal authority to influence others like their counterparts. (Davidson, 1999)

This means that followers will be inspired to take action voluntarily rather than because this is what they are supposed to do. However, managers only have power over others because of the formal systems that have been put in place. In my case my supervisor tried her best to inspire voluntary leadership by facilitating rather than by making me do my teaching plans because it was my obligation. Also, she was able to achieve this by displaying an excitement for work as this enthusiasm tended to rub off on me as well. Besides that, she was always focusing on achievement more than results. (Hayden, 2001)

Characteristics of Modern Leaders and leadership roles

Being a team player involves carrying out one’s roles effectively in order to maximise overall outcome for the group. This role can be demonstrated when teachers forego personal gains such as career advancement in order to foster effectiveness of a certain team.

A team leader is one who directs a group in a manner that causes them to become efficient. For instance, the principal in my practice often illustrated this concept of team leadership by fostering dialogue on sharing teachers’ visions.

A challenger is one who transforms a certain group by questioning the status quo and always thinking of new ways of approaching different problems. Other senior teachers were able to demonstrate this when they suggested new methods of school sponsorship to the school administration.

Role modelling is displaying and causing others to possess effective behaviours and actions. In my usual practice, I made a point to arrive at the centre 5 to 10 minutes earlier to settle myself in or to prepare my teaching materials. I found that this was a positive practice to be extended out to the staff/colleagues as it was often less stressful to get ready for the day in the centre.

To be an Influencer is to get people to do something without force or exertion. Through my experiences, I found that actions speak louder than words. Besides that I believe in setting a good example that can influence people to keep time. For example: I helped teachers and relatives to bring out mattresses whenever I was in the class or helped them in arranging the classroom neatly before leaving the centre.

The leadership role of Mentor entails provision of support where individuals with greater knowledge and experience (classified as mentors) are coordinated with less knowledgeable and experience individuals (classified as mentees) for the aim of advancing a mentor’s development. For example, my principal was my mentor throughout the orientation on my first 3 days of work. She briefed me on the importance so that I will know or have a better picture of what to expect. (Mitchell, 1999)

In terms of leadership also felt that the leadership role of team builder was quite crucial. This was because the school administration through the principal allowed all teachers to be involved in the decision making process through weekly staff meetings. In so doing, the principal was creating and promoting an effective team.

Leaders must also be demonstrators of integrity. This implies that one has to do the right thing at the right time regardless of any selfish gains that one can benefit from a certain situation. For instance if one of the children’s parents seeks to speak to a teacher about their child and asks the teacher to let her child off the hook for not completing assignments, leaders ought to stand their ground and assert that every student will be treated equally where no favours would be forthcoming from them. When one teacher does this, then this may inspire other staff to do the same. (Grace. 2003)

A decision maker is one who chooses between various ideas depending on what that individual thinks is best for them. Teachers must decide between various teaching methods available to them in order to offer the best solutions to their students. Those teachers who effectively do this are able to inspire others as well. (Bowman & Kagan, 1997)

There was the role of collaborator as well. A collaborator is a leader who works well with different members of the team to achieve goals. My teaching practice school principal made sure that this was possible by looking into the needs of the group (group of teachers) and then working with us to come up with effective solutions.

A coach is one who steers individuals into the direction which they ought to follow. In other words, this is someone who helps one’s followers to reach ultimate objectives by providing them with skills needed to do so. An early educator can take up this leadership role by engaging in discussions with the mentored teachers who seem to have retrogressed in their teaching performance so as to get them back on track. The role of an empowerer is quite similar to that of a coach. However, the latter kind of a leader emphasises more on morale boosting than skill development.

An advocate is one who looks out for the interests of one’s followers. For teachers and early childhood educators, this can be witnessed when the latter group defend the needs of students in the event that a school administration fails to meet their resource needs such as new computers, furniture etc.

A manager is one who uses his or her position in order to influence others. This role was demonstrated by my supervisor who used to carry out performance evaluations on my practice because of her position.

Networkers are those who utilise other forces in their environment to cause positive change amongst their followers. Teachers can network by working with administrators, parents and sponsors in order to garner resources and motivation needed to keep their students going.

Visionary leadership involves thinking of the future and making one’s followers share this aspiration too. A teacher may demonstrate such a role by advising and sharing ideas with one’s peers. One can also strive for excellence in his or work and thus lead other teachers in doing the same.


There are so many challenges that arise during leadership in the early childhood context. First of all, there is a need to make decisions instantly and frequently. This can be a bit difficult given the fact that those decisions have lasting effects. Aside from that, enforcing leadership amongst peers is also challenging because they may have similar competencies or levels of experience. It takes much greater effort to make them realise the benefits of sticking to one’s goals.

Leadership entails working with a series of people. In my situation, supervisors had to get permission from the principal in order to implement some new ideas and this slowed down their efficiency as mentors or coaches. Lastly, leadership requires focusing on long term perspectives but still having the ability to translate these into short term ideas. The main challenge with this is that there are day to day scenarios that frequently alter one’s plan. It is difficult sticking to set out plans. Instead, having a clear vision can be a better guide to dealing with day to day challenges and slowly this translates to success.


Rodd, J. (2006). Leadership in early childhood. (3rd Edtn ). New York: Open University Press.

Mitchell, L. (1999). Early childhood education in the 1990s. Wellington: Victoria University

Bowman, B. & Kagan, S. (1997). Leadership in educational and early care. Washington: NAEYC

Hayden, J. (2001). Early childhood services management. NY: Double day

Grace. G. (2003). Beyond management of education. London: Falmer Press

Davidson, G. (1999). Quality in kindergartens. Wellington: Victoria University Press

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