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
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
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