Leadership is a strong word that gets thrown around a lot, but many fail to incorporate key aspects into their centre. There's more to being a leader than simply adopting a new title. Leadership is essential in management positions, especially relating to success and growth. There are levels of development, motivation, support, and encouragement that needs to integrate into the position. Likewise, there's a direct correlation between leadership opportunities and their influence within a childcare setting.
Our previous blog covered effective ways to increase your settings childcare occupancy rate. Next in our series, we will cover what leadership means in childcare and early years education and why it is essential. Before we get into leadership, let's look at:
Childcare vs Early Years Education – How is it any different?
Although the two terms are often synonymous, there are a few differences. According to Britannica.com, a childcare centre is an institution that offers supervision and care of young children and infants during the daytime, mainly when the child's caregivers are at work. Alternatively, the website defines an Early Years Centre as a branch of education theory that relates to the teaching of children.
Early childhood education will often focus on daily needs and meeting developmental milestones overall. The providers often push students educationally to prepare for grade school entrance. Staff will often hold high secondary education levels, training, and certifications to work within these facilities, including the occasional licensed teacher by the state.
The most significant difference between childcare and Early Years Education is the critical focus of care versus education. That's not to say there's anything wrong with a facility focusing on care above all, nor is there anything wrong with a centre dedicated to ensuring educational focus.
The role of a leader
A leader is someone who develops and provides an organisation or facility with a clear vision and continues to motivate everyone involved to help encompass those beliefs. These aren't simply directors or managers within the centre. A boss is one of dictatorship and authority. On the other hand, leadership in childcare is someone that works to inspire an organisation. They work to develop a system that people want to participate in.
Instead of instructing staff and subordinates to follow a mandate, they encourage and involve members freely. When individuals participate in activities they want to do instead of those they are supposed to do; they're increasingly motivated to do their best, remain happier, and hold higher retention. This shift in mindset can be the catalyst to a strong leadership initiative in a challenging industry.
What does leadership mean in early childhood?
Leadership roles within childcare facilities are remarkably different from other professions, especially as there are no qualifying criteria to identify an effective strategy. Still, effective leadership's specific traits, qualities, and characteristics stand out.
A successful leader will influence and connect individuals to achieve a common goal or purpose, even when faced with difficulty. A leader is anyone willing to stand up and act on their own and followers' motivations or values. They aren't selfish or absorbed. A leader focuses on the social change at hand. They also focus on how those influences transfer to the children within their care.
A leader is willing to chart the course for an organisation, improving the educational quality and recommended practices. Unfortunately, it's not enough for a director to continue in a dictatorship role. They must be willing to shift their mindset to encouraging and trailblazing. For example, moving to a leadership mindset must incorporate working knowledge of child development, personal traits, and moral purpose.
Why is leadership important in childcare?
Taking on a leadership role is exceptionally challenging regardless of where you're leading, but it isn't straightforward when immersed in early childhood education. Ages zero through five are essential for childhood growth and development, making the best experience possible critical for developing minds.
Unfortunately, early learning of often an undervalued area of society. Many centres struggle with staffing issues, overworking, and undervaluing staff salaries. Turnover and burnout are typical within the industry, leaving parents struggling with adequate care. Depending on the location, minimal guidance or funding is available for developing suitable learning environments. As the odds stack against childcare providers, remaining a solid leader is more important. Never lose sight of improving learning outcomes for the children, and rally those within your community to share the same belief.
Currently, there are excellent centres worldwide striving to offer exceptional learning experiences. Each of these centres integrates the same component for their success – successful leadership. According to Leithwood et al., student outcomes are directly improved with distributed leadership on staff motivation and performance. It also directly linked staff retention with solid leadership. Those managers with energy and passion within the centre are seen as inspirational, recognising the staff's strengths and using them to an advantage.
How can I be a good leader in early childhood?
Becoming a good leader within the early childhood industry takes time, energy, and dedication, especially when considering a facility or centre. Most leaders enter the profession out of profound love of children, making them ideal candidates for leadership opportunities. Leadership requires organisation, patience, and flexibility. Effective communication with staff and children is essential for the generalised vision and implementation of company focus. To help get you started, here are five techniques to improve your leadership potential and opportunity overall:
Always Mentor Rising Leaders
An effective administrator and director for leaders within Early Childhood Education are always looking for potential leaders. Teachers within the classroom regularly work with parents and students, with a direct opportunity for observation within the centre. Several classroom educators or assistants could hold valuable skills to qualify them for substantial leadership opportunities with proper encouragement and training.
After identifying potential leaders, mentorship becomes essential. It's not enough to recognise a promising candidate; a good director will ensure adequate training, education, and decision-making. These opportunities offer first-hand experience under a leadership role for the individual while cultivating opportunities within the system, simultaneously building retention.
Optimise Individual Strengths
A leader isn't afraid to take the reins and encourage the organisation to continue pushing forward. A strong leader will always know their strengths and capitalise on them. These candidates will always stand tall when faced with controversy but appreciates the benefit of staff involvement. Staff members feel empowered to make suggestions on how they might increase their skills, offering a direct connection with knowledge, creativity, and ideas.
Suggest Reflective Practices
When integrating leadership opportunities, constantly challenge the norm within your industry. Look at things from a new perspective and see if there's an area for improvement. Maybe you've noticed teachers scrambling to get supplies or items—consider optimising the space to improve function and organisation. Not all fixes are seemingly obvious, but significant change can result from small changes. It's always better to go through all aspects of the facility to see if you can find a way to make things better.
Develop Time Management Skills
There are only 24-hours in a day, meaning you'll need to prioritise your hours accordingly. A strong leader knows how to prioritise and focus on pressing issues first. Working around the clock isn't a healthy approach for you, your family, or the team. Factor downtime into your time management approach and keep your target in mind.
Always Provide Time and Opportunities
One drawback to childcare is the loneliness that often occurs. While many workers are surrounded by people all day, it's crucial to offer social and educational support. These opportunities provide leadership potential that drives home passion and purpose. Options also connect the systems and processes that focus on actual intent.
While leadership is essential for growth and development overall, it's not a quick process. Leadership in childcare is built through a clear focus, strong vision, and encouragement. Flexibility is essential while continuing to support staff and students. Choosing opportunity and education is paramount, especially when integrating new components into a centre. Unfortunately, not everyone within management is destined for leadership opportunities, but those who excel at leading have the chance to improve the impact it has on the facility.
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