Geraldine Davis and Gemma Ryder, authors of Leading in Early Childhood provide their expert view on what leadership in the early years is and how every practitioner has the capacity to lead.
In our view, leadership is about using your knowledge, skills, personality and experience to positively influence practice. Every practitioner has the capacity to lead, and by doing so to improve opportunities for children and their families and promote ways of working which support staff development.
We consider that some roles are identified as ‘leader’ roles, but that all early childhood roles need people who can enact leadership. Practitioners do this by enacting the values and supporting the goals of the setting.
Your role may be as an assistant, as the overall leader of the setting, as a SENCO, a teacher, a room leader, a key person, a nanny, or one of several other roles. You may have a job description, or you may have a number of tasks which are your responsibility. Whatever your role, you have a part to play. In our book Leading in Early Childhood leadership is seen as a component of every person’s work in the early childhood sector. One participant in our research for this book, a senior early years educator, indicated what leadership meant to her:
‘I think it means guiding and mentoring others, having the knowledge and confidence to deal with situations, and supporting others that have less knowledge of an area, so you can help them, and having ideas and implementing them and showing best practice, so others copy your good role model’.
Leadership may be taking overall responsibility for a whole setting or several settings, putting in place policies and procedures to enable the setting to achieve its aims, and providing a structure for the workforce to work with (therefore Chapters 5 and 6 will be particularly relevant to you if you are in this role). This is how many people view leadership, but leadership is much more than this. It might be looking for ways to do your own job more effectively, for example to work more productively with children and families, or to achieve the aims of the Early Years Foundation Stage. Chapter 7 considers ways in which all practitioners can promote positive ways of working with families. Leadership can include thinking creatively about your own work, how you might do something differently.
Seeing leadership as part of your role can be empowering, it can make you feel you have an important role in the setting, and make others also realise the importance of their roles.