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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
families. 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.

Ask Yourself
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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In what ways are the children you teach likely to become
teachers of their peers? In what ways are the teachers you
lead likely to become leaders of their peers?
In what ways do the least privileged children and teach-
ers in your group benefit from your leadership? Think
about the children in your classroom who have the fewest
resources, such as family, money, equipment, or previous
learning opportunities. Think about the newest teachers,
whether they’re new to the profession or new to your work
setting. How does your leadership benefit these teachers
and children?
What cultural values influence your expectations of a
leader? How do your expectations compare with those of
teachers from other cultural groups?
Other Terms Used to Discuss Leadership
One of the reasons there are so many definitions of effective leaders and
leadership is that the other terms we use alongside leadership cause confu-
sion. Terms that are often used to discuss leadership include power, author-
ity, status, and management. When these terms are used in place of leadership,
people’s feelings about leadership are affected. For example, someone who
equates leadership with management may think of leadership as dull and
boring if that’s the association they have with the term management. In
focusing on power, authority, status, and management, we often make the
mistake of locating leadership outside of the classroom or family child care
setting. Let’s look at what each of the four terms mean, particularly in rela-
tion to leadership.

Power Leadership is not merely power. Power, in its most casually accepted defini-
tion, can be described as an intentional, purposeful act in which one person
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