3Leadership in Early Childhood Education leadership on children and their families can help change society and the future of early childhood care and education in ways you can’t begin to imagine! Obstacles to Early Childhood Leadership Many obstacles to leadership occur in early childhood care and education. Our field is almost entirely composed of women drawn to a nurturing environment, working with young children, participating in the growth of others, and putting the needs of others above their own. This makes devel- oping leaders difficult, given that leadership development is self-focused, often rigorous or conflictual, and involves teachers in situations and activi- ties that may feel uncomfortable. In addition, our field is often undervalued. Our pay is low, our ben- efits are minimal or nonexistent, our turnover is high, there are few entry requirements and even fewer opportunities for our professional development or training, and our pathways for career advancement are unclear. We have yet to develop an inclusive definition of leadership that takes into account its need at all levels and in all areas. In many cases, we are not even sure how we really feel about leadership. Because of this, we compete with each other—level against level, setting against setting, public against private— for the few resources that are available. We can be sure that if we are ambivalent about the need for and defini- tion of leadership within our field, those on the outside looking in at us are even more confused. Developing future leaders in such an environment is incredibly difficult! Some critics have suggested that we hesitate to provide rewards and incentives for leadership development because those of us with more skills may be drawn to positions outside the classroom. We can’t have it both ways. If we need leaders in our profession, we must be willing to help develop and reward them. We must acknowledge existing leadership at all levels of the profession, formally and informally. What Is Leadership? What is leadership and who are leaders? Leadership means different things to different people and is defined differently in different settings and LTL2_FINALpp.indd 3 11/4/09 3:21:07 PM