Leadership Style of Director of a Children’s Centre

My Leader’s Management Roles

Heading a children’s centre entails a host of roles and responsibilities to keep it not only afloat but thriving at its optimal level. My leader is the managing director of a children’s centre and its sister preschool. She is in charge of the day-to-day operation of the centre which includes the overall management of all areas from the availability of supplies, to scheduling of staff, to interviewing parents and to budget considerations, among many other responsibilities. She is there to ensure that the centre runs smoothly. She also works with a Board of Directors composed mostly of volunteer parents. They make final decisions on some financial issues. Aside from management concerns, she also does strategic planning with staff for brainstorming other decisions for the centre and the children. Although she does not have a teaching load, she is on hand to lend her teaching skills as a reliever when necessary.

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Culkin (1997) differentiates the roles of managers and leaders of institutions. Managers are involved with specific details of daily practice such as operational procedures, finances, and other policies while leaders are more involved with reflective, dynamic, value based planning and organizing. In other words, managers are concerned with setting up and managing systems while leaders give the school vision, direction, set standards and making tough decisions.

My leader’s role is critical in the early childhood program she runs. She is a hands-on leader who needs to get into the nitty gritty details of each area of concern, as well as one who stands back to see the whole picture. The diagram that follows shows the scope of her responsibilities, which for any ordinary reader would seem overwhelming. However, since my leader aims for excellence, she takes all of these details to heart in order to provide a high quality of service to the community.

Many of these roles and tasks are typical for directors of childcare centres such as personal management, staff management, training facility and maintenance management. Programming and managing children’s curriculum are familiar tasks of directors as well as liaising with staff and families (Geoghegan, Petriwskgj, Bower 2003).

My leader is also accountable to the Board of Directors. She gives them information they need such as funding awards and present them with options to enable them to make informed decisions. The Board makes final decisions mostly about financial/ budget issues.

High quality early childhood education program

My Leader’s Leadership Styles

From my observation of my leader, I can tell she is always in control of the situation. She admits to having a democratic style of leadership. She is comfortable working with a team in setting goals, prioritizing how to achieve such goals and delegating responsibility to everyone so each has fair contribution in the collaborative efforts. She can discern the use of different leadership styles with different people and situations. However, she finds it most difficult to use the authoritarian leadership style when she needs to discipline someone who does not follow the policies she needs to enforce. In the following sections, my leader’s leadership styles will be analyzed according to Sullivan’s (2003) categories of participative, educative and facilitative leadership styles.

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My Leader as a “Participative” Leader

My first observations of my leader were her preoccupation with staff concerns. She claimed she had an early start to her day due to a phone call from one of her employees who cannot come to work because she was sick. Since then, my leader got busy reorganizing staff duties in order to accommodate the absence. If left with no choice, she is willing to be a reliever just so operations in the centre will not be disrupted.

Another evidence of her being a participative leader is when she was called by one of the teachers just to share with her a picture of a platypus one of the children made. This showed that she is regarded as someone significant enough to share someone’s delights with, even if she occupied a superior position over that person.

My leader is a self-confessed team player. She says she likes to see that in others too. She says, “ I respect and nurture those who are team players. I have seen people who are in early childhood for themselves and I find that challenging. I enjoy having people on board who can see the bigger picture. It’s rewarding when people go above and beyond for the preschool, community should pull together and that is what we are, a community service” (See Interview with Early Childhood leader, Appendix 2).

Participative leadership means that a leader considers everyone’s participation or opinion, not only her own. My leader sometimes resorts to a democratic way of coming to a decision by surveying everyone’s opinion and letting the majority rule. She claims to be a fair leader in her own way.

My Leader as an “Educative” Leader

My leader’s mere openness for me to be there to interview and observe her is enough reason for me to see her as an Educative leader. She knows that I will benefit much from such a task, and it is part of my education to see a real educational leader in action. My leader is a teacher at heart. She is willing to show me the ropes, and even introduces me to others like the parents and teachers, as if to endorse me as a learner under her wing.

She also encourages her staff to attend training to hone their skills further by putting up paid training opportunity selections on the notice board. Teachers must remain open to new learning throughout their careers to allow for the development of new educational trends and perspectives. It is evident that early childhood leaders are needed to help influence, inspire and motivate staff to be their best. As an early childhood service Director it is crucial that he/she develops a knowledge of the various behaviours and techniques needed to help increase the effectiveness of the centre staff (Sullivan, 2003). Of course, as a teacher, she advocates high quality education for the children they serve. Her philosophy is that every child should have equal access to the service since he or she has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. She says, “Children need a safe and stimulated learning environment with empathies on acceptance and inclusiveness.” (See Interview with Early Childhood leader, Appendix 2)

My Leader as a “Facilitative” Leader

Clark (2008) defines leadership as “a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent.” (Clark, 2008, para.3). The operative word here is influence. My leader knows how to use her position to facilitate others into accomplishing goals. She shares:

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“I tend to put issues or suggestions out there and see how it comes together. But I do have visions, for example I like the environment to [be] cleared away at the end of the day, but others might see things differently so its interesting to put it out there and see what people have to say about it. Then there are regulations and policies, that are simply the rules and it is my job to ensure that these are followed” (See Interview with Early Childhood Leader, Appendix 2).

My leader’s guidance is very subtle, as she lets her staff shine on their own. Although she gives them latitude to express their ideas freely, she also knows when to take them if it fits the organisation’s philosophy. A good leader has a clear vision of where she is going and sets directions to others towards that vision. She collaborates with other people on ways and means to reach their goals and not focus the authority on herself. In doing so, she empowers them to be confident in their abilities and motivates them to welcome challenges and opportunities. Because of her positive influence, she gains the respect of everyone to follow her lead while pursuing a common mission for the growth and development of the organisation (Leithwood & Riehl, 2003). Shoemaker (2000) supports this vision by stating that effective leadership ‘is needed to foster purpose, creativity, imagination and drive’ (p.41) within other members of staff. My leader is required to establish effective leadership skills and develop strategies that initiate intrinsic inspiration within employees and thus, enable them to function independently. My leader is an important component of ‘learning how to move from good practice towards best practice’, (Rodd, 2006). Working this way, she is encouraging her employees to work towards their full potential and empower opportunities for a stimulating future within the Early Childhood field.

My Leader’s Essence

My very warm and articulate leader made me feel so welcome in her world. Despite her very hectic schedule, she managed to accommodate me by granting a candid interview and allowing me to observe her in action. I gained so much from the experience, even her hidden agenda of not setting out the chairs out during the parents’ assembly to encourage them to mingle and socialize first and not to immediately find their own corners to sit and be isolated from the group.

The leadership styles used to analyze my leader, the Participative, Educative and Facilitative styles truly fit how I viewed her. She was participative by simply being herself, and showing she was one with her staff and not flaunt that she is a notch above them. It was easy for her to gain their respect that way and it becomes automatic that her staff truly sees her in a position of authority. She is educative by showing the way to others like myself, her staff, and even the parents. She does not pound her ideas on everyone else, but rather, she allows them to come to their own learning themselves, with her encouragement. This also defines her as a facilitative leader.

I can see just how overwhelming her role was as a managing director, as she was always multi-tasking, and being productive at it. She says her management duties at the office take much of her time away from the early childhood program, but I see that when in the presence of the children, she automatically shifts to the role of a caring early childhood professional. This, I witnessed when we visited the sister preschool as she encountered the young students, and during the parent interview with the new child, when she entertained him with a puzzle.

Her positive disposition is what draws people to her. Her staff is unafraid to approach her for any concern… be it inquiring about the payroll, negotiating job schedules or merely sharing an inspiring child’s work done in class. In her multiple roles as an Early Childhood Centre Leader, she seems to perform at her best.

For me, my leader embodies what I envision to be an ideal, effective leader. This is summed up as one who has a clear vision of how an institution should be. She is equipped with the knowledge and skills of how to get there, complemented by a positive attitude and high emotional intelligence in handling people. She does not see herself as central in the process of change but shares her leadership with key people like her staff who directly affect the institution. Her caring, considerate and sensitive attitude is oriented towards the growth and development of the members and the institution itself.

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References

Clark, D. (2008) Concepts of Leadership in Hutter, A.D. (1982) Poetry in psychoanalysis: Hopkins, Rosetti, Winnicott. International Review of Psycho-Analysis 9, 303-16.

Culkin, M. 1997, ‘Administrative leadership’, in Leadership in Early Care and Education, ed.S.L. Kagan & B.T. Bowman, National Assoc. for the Education of Young Children, Washington, DC, pp. 23-33.

Geoghegan, N., Petriwskgj, A., Bower, L. & Geoghegan, D. 2003, ‘Eliciting dimensions of educational leadership in early childhood education’, Journal of Australian Research in Early Childhood Education, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 12-22.

Liethwood, K.A. & Riehl, C. (2003) What We Know About Successful School Leadership. NCSL.

Shoemaker, C.C.J. 2000, ‘Leadership and the role of the leader’, in Leadership and Management of Programs for Young Children, 2nd edn, Pearson Education, Boston, pp. 38-44.

Sullivan, D. 2003. Learning to Lead, Effective Leadership Skills for Teachers of Young Children. Redleaf Press, St Paul, Mmn

Rodd, J. 2006, Leadership in Early Childhood: The pathway to professionalism, 3rd edn, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW.

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