ECE leadership occurs in many forms from the classroom to the director. We believe that leadership is a stance that everyone in the program can embrace as a way to lead a classroom, a program, a community, an organization, or a state.
Leadership is not to be confused with management, defined as the day-to-day structures of running a program. Rather leadership looks at the image of the child that we hold in our practice.
Leadership is the act of looking forward or looking back at our practice. Our beliefs as early childhood educators influence the way we lead in our classrooms, programs and communities. Our practice, the ideas and philosophies we hold dear represent the backbone of our actions when working with children. Reflection is fundamental to leadership, as is ongoing professional development so we continue to grow as we are changed or been influenced by the things we read, hear, or experience in the classroom.
What influences our beliefs about leadership?
Our leadership beliefs are influenced by many factors from our experiences in being lead by others to what we believe about the capabilities of others. Primary to our experience as leaders are the values that we hold about children and adults as capable of their own growth and learning from experience. Do we rush in, do we scaffold experiences, or do we support and trust those around us to grow into their strengths from their trials? The only way we can truly grow is to iterate our practice. This involves stumbling as well as success. Our ability to support iteration (such a much better word than failure) is to be comfortable to let go of controls. We acknowledge and celebrate the determined, imperfect efforts towards growth and development of self.
Leadership is being clear on all the influences on our lives and how they affect our ability to create a clear and consistent vision that scaffolds our own decisions. Leadership is being bold and not holding the status quo. It is holding space for others to shine. Leadership celebrates the way that we arrive at a vision for our work with children and adults.
Leadership stands against inequity. We take into account the diversity of experience, needs, and culture of those who are in our programs. Leaders acknowledge that there are systemic inequities and make choices to address these issues everyday in both big and small ways. Leadership is about stepping forward and pushing for improvement. It is a process and not a destination.
Reflecting on our practice
No matter what your beliefs represent or the origin of the beliefs, reflection is important as a leader. Take some time and look at your beliefs about leadership. The method and lens that inform the examination equals a personal choice. I would encourage all leaders to claim some time to look at your practice and reflect on how your work serves the children and families in your care. If areas exist that need improvement, direct time to try new methods and practices that will enhance and grow the learning community in your sphere of influence.
We lead from where we are, whether in the classroom, program, or community. It is our responsibility to understand the beliefs behind the enactment of our leadership, for we hold hold the vision of what is possible.