It is said that good leaders are made and not born. Leadership qualities are grown through a constant process of self study, training, education and experience. Hence, it’s not just something to acquire it has to be embedded in one’s personality. This can be done by effectively using early childhood and setting examples for them, as, most children absorb and observe their teachers parents and atmosphere at home to imbibe the same in their personalities. Hence as the benefits of early childhood education are being recognized it is also important to critically understand the leadership in early childhood contexts.
This essay aims at providing a clear view of leadership and its theories. It also makes an effort at understanding the importance of leadership in early childhood education. Further it presents the author’s personal philosophy of leadership along with some emerging ideas along with their implication as an ECEC professional. The essay also links this philosophy to an early childhood setting using examples and experiences for better clarity and understanding. Through this essay the author wants to critically understand the basic leadership theories and the nature of leadership especially in the context of gender and the field of education and care for early childhood..
Over the time, there have been various ways in which leadership has been perceived and defined. According to Northouse (2007), leadership is an approach where an individual inspires a team or group of individuals in towards achieving a common objective. While, when the US military studied leadership in depth they defined it as a method of motivating others to succeed in a mission (U.S. Army, 1983). Leadership is also defined as motivating others to pursue your vision within the parameters you set in order to achieve common efforts, shared vision and shared success (Zeitchik, 2012). Again, Kruse in 2013, said leadership is a process of social influence that helps to maximize the efforts of others to move towards achieving the goal.
However, on reading closely it can be observed that these different definitions have some commonalities. All of them focus on a person’s social influence and not authority in order to achieve the goals. They also imply that leadership needs others for successful execution. And it is all driven by a need to accomplish a task or goal or a mission.
Through the years, various theories have been developed to understand, explain and apply leadership and define the roles played by the leader in a management context. Jago in 1982 presented two theories of leadership namely the Process Theory of Leadership and the Trait Theory of Leadership. He said that leaders apply their knowledge and skills to influence people in order to achieve the goals. This is Process leadership whereas; the traits of the leader influence their action, which is also known as Trait leadership. These traits can be intelligence, extroversion, fluency, beliefs, values, ethics and character which make a leader unique.
Charry (2012) identified eight major leadership theories where, some focused on the qualities that distinguish leaders from followers and others, presented various variables like the situational factors and skill levels. These eight theories are as follows:
In my personal view, leadership strives in the personality of an individual. Just like the situational theory, I too believe that leadership style or ways are situation dependent, however, it is also important for a leader to have participation of the team in decision making. My philosophy is to have a democratic style along with hints of charismatic style. Charismatic leadership although is identifiable yet it is often perceived with less tangibility than others (Bell, 2013). Charismatic leadership style is good as it builds trust in the leader and his decisions however, it has its cons the leader might start to ignore his mistakes and the fall of the leader might led to company’s downfall. Therefore, in my opinion I feel charismatic must be only a small hint in terms of trust building, rest, the participative or the democratic style works really good. However, I do believe that leadership style must not be an extra effort rather, must be a part of the personality in order to be followed well. Extraordinary leaders should have a clear vision for their organizations. They should visualize the preferred future and work towards achieving it. Especially as an ECEC professional, leadership in the context of education is like the power to foresee the future. Using words and by examples, leaders of the education field are an inspiration to the entire system as they effectively influence behavior, opinion and feelings of people working in the system and ensure that the system is strategically aligned (Peretomode, 1991). In general, the vision and firmness of the goals are the core concerns of education management and planning leaders. They seek to develop optimal education policies and strategies, including improved education programs and administrative services, to develop competent graduates who have access to key positions in society, thereby improving educational practices and procedures (Ololube, 2013). According to Wallace and Hoyle (2005), effective leadership and management stands for reduced leadership and management. Even teachers now have specific management roles and decentralized leadership skills, thus, by minimizing teachers' non-teaching tasks, it will allow them to focus on teaching and reduce the added workload of leadership and management of the school system. Keeping these points in mind, I have developed my philosophy that revolves around quality based outcome. This philosophy states that leadership should be such wherein, team members are motivated and inspired by the leader to work together and deliver quality based outcomes. My philosophy also takes into account the followers stating that it is the job of the followers to actively participate into the decision making process to promote the democratic style and provide feedback and new ideas to build effective strategies to attain the desired goals. This would therefore, not only promote a participative style but also mitigate any drawbacks of the charismatic style. Enacting the philosophy in the workplace As mentioned above being in the ECEC in an early childhood setting is job full of responsibility as it is directly related to handling the future generation. Children learn from what they see around hence, building a good and positive leadership atmosphere would encourage the children to learn the same. The first and foremost thing to be done as a leader following my philosophy would be to define a vision that is clear and well communicated. After setting the vision we would then set up SMART objectives to accomplish the vision. Being a democratic leader, the opinions of the other colleagues would also be recorded and discussed and hence, a participative approach is being used. To motivate the teachers and students as well in some cases, rewards and certificates can be used as a part of transactional style where in good performance is awarded to increase motivation. In my philosophy, feedback from the followers plays an important role in improvement, therefore every month along with the review meeting there would be a feedback survey, this would not only record feedback of the staff for their leader but also feedback of the students for their respective teacher. To avoid any kind of biases anonymity would be maintained. Because of this feedback system not only will the leader be aware of the pros and cons but also gaps can be easily identified and filled. Also, it will keep the leaders grounded as they would know that there is always room for improvement. This would therefore motivate everyone in the system to continuously improve and focus on quality. Similarly, the teacher student relationship would also be less autocratic and more participative inspired and guided by the relationship building to increase the student engagement and interests.
There are many aspects of leadership styles, roles and strategies that a leader can take up at various times. This essay has clarified in detail about the major theories of leadership which have been developed and discussed until this time. The essay also talks about leadership in early childhood setting especially as a professional at ECEC. By developing a through a thorough understanding of leadership theories and style it can be concluded that an amalgamation of these according to the demands of the situation it is possible to achieve the goals and implement quality education and children development. It further clarifies that there cannot be a set rule for leadership but it is majorly adopted as a personality trait to accomplish various objectives at different times and circumstances. The most important indicators of successful leadership are: achievement of the required objectives and goals, motivation of the followers and ensuring a healthy learning environment for the children to adopt and imbibe leadership traits in them. “Lead by example” is the mantra to be followed by a leader in this field along with a theoretical understanding of the various leadership theories and their implementation. It can be thereby concluded that although there are various guidelines or principles that guide the role of a leader but, there is also a lot of scope to modernize these and develop fresh adaptations to satisfy the present needs. This is more required in the education field as the future depends on the results and it impact young children and helps their development into professionals for tomorrow. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that leaders in this sector reflect upon their leadership styles to ensure that they are setting the right examples and portraying the most appropriate behaviors which impact children in the early childhood.
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