Leadership in the Early Childhood Field

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Part A

The early childhood field is dynamic, dealing with social and political change and provides a range of settings to meet diverse community needs (Ebbeck & Waniganayake, 2003). Leadership is essential during these challenging times, to ensure early childhood settings are high quality organisations for children, families and staff teams (Ebbeck & Waniganayake, 2003). Correspondingly there is a growing awareness of the importance of the theory and practice of leadership specific to the early childhood field. According to Rodd (2006) leadership in early childhood is about vision and influence to inspire staff teams and the management skills to promote the development of staff, and organisational changes to achieve a shared vision. The article by Schratz (2006) explores leadership perspective based on meaningful relationships and new learning. The article by Deakins (2007) explores the perspective of communication for leadership and the value of empowering staff. All these perspectives move away from the traditional authoritarian view of leadership and explore evolving theory and practice of leadership in the early childhood field (Rodd, 2006).

The Schratz (2006) article examines leadership in the school settings and highlights the current pressure on the education system to improve quality, and the vital role leadership has during these changes. While the Deakins (2007) article examines the integral role leadership has in an early childhood setting during a period of dramatic organisational growth and change. Both articles explored the important role meaningful communication and relationships have in effective leadership.

According to Schratz (2006, p.40) perspective, leadership in schools is not simply about the principal’s authority but about meaningful relationship “between people, planning, culture and structure”. Therefore an effective leader would interact and have a positive influence on these relationships to improve the quality of the school organisation and the quality of learning. While Deakins (2007) perspective focuses on the importance of involving all staff in dialogue, to challenge beliefs and develop a shared vision. In addition the leader role involves empowering staff teams to be responsible for the new shared vision and goals, with increased training and greater autonomy. Likewise Rodd (2006) argues that leadership is based on relationships where the leader establishes relationships of trust with their team. With this relationship a shared vision can be developed and the leader can influence the team’s beliefs and behaviours to make the necessary changes to reach the goals of the shared vision. All the authors Schratz (2006), Rodd (2006) and Deakin (2007) highlight the importance of leaders supporting the staff’s self awareness for the need of change as change can be challenging.

According to Rodd (2006) leadership involves improving the organisation through planned change. Both Schratz (2006) and Deakin (2007) explore perspectives on the challenges of change for staff and leaders. Schratz (2006) perspective examines concepts of denial and confusion in the change process and the role of leaders to develop trust relationships. These relationships establish a safe environment which allows staff to explore their beliefs and develop their skills. This allows the transformation into more competent professionals. The Deakin (2007) article explores the concepts and limitations of mental models and the importance of staff reflecting and questioning their assumptions and beliefs. In this way constructive dialogue can take place and staff can share ownership for the change in beliefs and subsequent changes in the organisation. In these all these processes staff are empowered to work collaboratively and share the leadership role (Rodd, 2006).

According to Rodd (2006) the concept of shared leadership is valuable in early childhood. Many early childhood professionals struggle with the...
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