7Leadership in Early Childhood Education
leaders who play primary roles in making an organization or group better
for its members. How you define your own role as a leader also provides
many clues to how you perceive your relationship with children and their
Keep in mind the cultural values that influence your conception of a
leader’s role. In many African and African American communities, for
example, great leaders have the twin roles of spokesperson, voicing the con-
cerns of the community, and follower, being directed from the community
for which she claims to speak. In the early childhood field, these twin roles
of spokesperson and follower can be found in the political advocate who is
an excellent spokesperson because she has been a teacher and understands
the needs and challenges of the profession. Nevertheless, to be an effective
leader, she must also continue to be perceived as a member of the teaching
community—the teachers for whom she advocates must see her as one of
their own—someone who follows their lead and perspective. This is particu-
larly true in the African and African American early childhood community,
but it is important in any leadership setting.
Does one of the terms used to describe leaders ring true
for you and the way you see your role in your work setting?
How does that role influence your relationship with the
children and their families? For example, what does your
work mean for children and families if you see yourself as
an architect? What are you building? How will you build
it? How will you know if what you are building meets the
needs of the children and families you serve?
In what ways does your leadership provide others with
opportunities to perform better and develop personally?
How do you know you are providing an encouraging,
empowering, and supportive environment? What charac-
teristics would you look for in this kind of environment?
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