Who We Are As Leaders
We each are a composite of what we believe, how we understand things, and
the actions we take. As a leader, it is critical that your core values—your guiding
principles—inform your leadership beliefs, thoughts, and actions.

Everyone has a core set of values. It is important for you to identify and articu-
late your core values to yourself and be aware of how they influence your thoughts,
words, and deeds. Even at an unconscious level, your personal values are always
present and always influencing how you carry out your leadership agenda. Your
leadership agenda is your personal plan for transforming an organization. Any
strong agenda must include a powerful vision and message along with strategic
action steps. All of these things are guided by a strong set of core values. To stay
on track with your leadership agenda, you must frequently take stock of your plan
by looking back, looking forward, and looking inward. Your core values are the
tools you use to keep you on course and moving in the right direction.

Anyone who wants to be a leader in the field of early childhood education
must first make a personal commitment to doing the right thing for children
and, even beyond that, must be guided by a set of leadership qualities. Your
values, beliefs, experience, and training inform these qualities. You can learn
these qualities for yourself, and you can develop them in others as well.

Based on my experience and success in the field of early childhood edu-
cation, I have identified a set of eight qualities that I believe will lead to your
success as a leader. These eight leadership qualities are human potential, knowl-
edge, social justice, competence, fun and enjoyment, personal renewal, perse-
verance, and courage. They are the heart of this book.

Together, these qualities form my core values, and I hope they will inform
yours too. I do not want to dance around the truth and say that having just
any set of qualities will make you an effective leader. That is simply not true. If
you want to be an effective leader and bring about enduring change, these eight
qualities of leadership are nonnegotiable. I view the absence of any one of these
qualities as a fatal flaw in leadership. With time and practice, these qualities
can become your core values—when they do, your skills and efficacy as a leader
will flourish, and you will empower yourself to do the right thing for children.

The Leader’s Core: You Are What You Believe 11

The Leadership Journey
Once you embrace them, these eight leadership qualities will serve as your
moral compass to guide your thinking and actions as a leader. They will be
your conceptual framework for organizational change and team development.

Thus, the eight leadership qualities are what I call the road map to leadership
success. If you stay true to these qualities while on your leadership journey, you
will always move in the direction of effective and inspiring leadership.

This chapter gives a quick overview of the eight leadership qualities. Then in
subsequent chapters, I show you in more detail how the qualities have unfolded
during my leadership journey in the field of early childhood education and how
they have led to effective and lasting change on behalf of children and their
families. I hope the stories culled from my thirty-plus years operating from my
core values will engage and inspire you. I also ask you to apply these leadership
qualities to your own situation—leadership that is motivated by these qualities
always starts at the personal level before it can affect communities and organi-
zations. You’ll find that when you take action that is based on these qualities,
others around you will pick up on the positive vibes that you emanate. As a
result, your attitude will become contagious, and you will be an inspiring and
effective leader and agent of change.

The Eight Leadership Qualities
1. Human Potential
The human-potential quality ensures that you as a leader do the right thing
because you recognize the untapped potential of every child and adult. With
this leadership quality, you see each child and adult as a capable, competent,
and resourceful individual in need of coaching, mentoring, and emotional
support. Adopting the quality of human potential ensures that you always
keep the interests of young children at the heart of every discussion and
decision. The human-potential quality reminds you that there are no limits
to learning for children and adults, just as there are no limits to an individ-
ual’s potential.

The human-potential quality also informs how you as a leader view and
talk to others in the workplace. It even influences how you interview potential
Chapter 1