I took a class in ECE leadership a few years ago. The most valuable aspect of the class was the development of a leadership credo. In two pages, we needed to summarize the values and principles underlying our leadership approach. Our professor shared that the purpose of a leadership credo is to 1) clarify your beliefs and what you stand for as a leader, 2) it helps you communicate your leadership beliefs to others.
Our class had many early childhood educators who worked with children. At first, there was some debate about who was a leader in early childhood as we tried to wrap our heads around the concept. Could we be leaders if we were working in early childhood classrooms? Who were we leading – was it the children, ourselves, our community? What we gradually came to discover is that we all lead, everyday. Leadership is having a vision for what you believe in and why it's important.
Steps to developing your own leadership credo.
- Think about your values and principles. Really take some time to reflect on what is most important to you and your work. It helps to write your ideas down. Take several days for this process, revisiting your thinking. Continue to layer ideas, values, beliefs, principles, and thoughts.
- Take some time to reflect on your thinking. Choose the most important values and principles. Pick only a few. These will be the basis of your leadership credo.
- Next start to develop statements---in sufficient detail---for your colleagues, program, and community to clearly understand what is most important to you. Your credo will be most useful if you choose a limited number of values and principles and describe them in depth.
- As you write, use first person (I statements….I believe), focusing on what you believe makes you a great leader. Take care not to write about what you think are leadership characteristics. This is not a list of leadership skills, rather who you see yourself as a leader.
- Then focus your energy on the type of leader you aspire to be. Be sure to write from this point-of-view.
- Your credo should be sophisticated, meaning that you should describe your beliefs precisely, but also show restraint, rather than trying to include every leadership belief you have (depth rather than breadth). Certainly, there are many values and principles you feel are important, in this instance choose only the most important ideas.
- Finally, revisit your credo three times. Revisit your credo at least two weeks apart, over the course of six-weeks. Each time you revisit your credo, take some time to reflect on how you are living your credo. Did you discover that some of it doesn’t work? Be sure to look each time for precision of writing. Revisit your credo every six months.
What we discovered, in our class through this process, is that we are all leaders. We all have values and principles that we enact in our professional practice. Our ability to clarify our beliefs made us so much stronger as educators. With my credo, it became so much easier to make decisions about my practice that were in alignment with my principles and values. More than anything, having a leadership credo helped me to be my best self at work.