leadership profile

My Leader profile – Leading to Change the Future, One Child at a Time

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My Leader profile – Leading to Change the Future, One Child at a Time

Introduction

To create a leadership profile, a face-to-face structured interview was conducted with the operations manager of an early childhood education and care centre, Christine1, who works as an operations manager at the Purple2 centre which is a part of a larger organisation called Great3 that manages many early childhood education and care centre across Australia. The effort was guided to explore the background of the setting and the leader. Upon analysis of the interview, it was found that the leader adopted affiliative, democratic, and transactional leadership styles. The application of the National Quality Standard given by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (2020) was assessed for the roles and responsibilities of the leader. The standard of governance and leadership were analysed, particularly focusing on the elements of service philosophy and roles and responsibility. Further, the role of educational leadership was explored, and certain strategies or tips for leadership were noted from the discussion with Christine1. The whole process helped enhance the knowledge of educational leadership in the field of early childhood education in Australia. The findings can be used to design leadership modules and training programs.

Organisational Setting

The leader, Christine1, works at the Purple2 Centre for early child education and care, which is part of a group of for-profit childcare organisations called Great3. They have a network of more than 400 early learning centres across Australia for children under 12 years of age, having many brands of early child care services under them.

The Purple2 early childhood education and care centre provides childcare, day-care, and pre-school education services for young children between birth and 6 years of age in an urban centre in Queensland. It can manage about 90 children per day and operates between 6 am and 6 pm, however, the timings can be flexible. The children at the centre are managed by a team of about 20 people who work here, making it a medium-sized early learning and childcare centre (C. Christine, personal communication, June 25, 2022).

The organisational structure of the early childhood education and care centre is hierarchical such that there is a clear and structured plan of command. (C. Christine, personal communication, June 25, 2022). The organisation structure of the centre and the parent organisation have been represented in the figures.

Figure 1

Organisational Structure of the Purple2 Early Childcare Service Centre

 

Figure 2

Organisational Structure of the Great3 Organisation

 

In a hierarchical organisational structure, the workers know to whom they have to report and who works under them. This form of hierarchy is effective in these organisations as it ensures that there is adherence to the ethical and legal guidelines of working with children, a uniform curriculum, and a common vision of the organisation (Thomas and Nuttall, 2013).

My Leader

Christine1 is the centre manager of the Purple early childhood education and care centre in Australia in the operations department. She completed her Bachelor of Education with a specialisation in Early Childhood Teaching. She then completed her Supervisor certification and has been approved for working with children by the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACEQA) and the local state standards. Christine1 then also completed certifications in first aid and CPR training when she started working as an early childhood educator. She has been working as an operations manager for more than 3 years in the Purple2 early childhood education and care centre (C. Christine, personal communication, June 25, 2022). This shows that she has the necessary qualifications and experience to work in the present role of leader. However, her personal qualities must have also helped her emerge and work as an effective leader (Yoon and Larkin, 2018).

Christine1 describes himself as passionate about the early childhood years, focusing on the education and development of children. She carries strong ethical values and adopts a genuine approach towards children, including concerns for their safety and wellbeing. To perform the role in management, she also has good communication skills, accountability, adaptability, flexibility, and resilience that enable her to prosper and grow in this career (C. Christine, personal communication, June 25, 2022).

The key responsibilities include leading the team of early learning professionals to be able to deliver quality care and education to the children. She also ensures that the work environment is safe and inclusive and follows the guidelines of the Great3 organisation’s policies and guidelines. The goal is to deliver a high quality of service that is perceived to be valuable by the families and community. From the business perspective, the manager of the early child education and care centre is also required to oversee various business operations. The leader thus performs various roles as identified by McCrea (2015).

Davitt and Ryder (2018) have highlighted the two-way interdependence of educators, administrators, parents, community members, children, and thus forming a close-knit ecosystem. Educators and leaders have a strong role in shaping the development of children, along with their parents. It was found that interventions can be designed for the development of leadership qualities in educators, particularly the qualities of distributed leadership and relational leadership.

Zealand early childhood centre provides leadership opportunities for teachers and children and highlights

the benets of [re]connecting young children with nature on a regular basis. It focuses on teachers’ and

parents’ views and perspectives on their participation in this nature-based education programme, specially

in regard to the leadership opportunities that the programme provided for teachers and children.

This article highlights the powerful impudence of the EOTC programme in the development of teachers’

leadership. It describes how leadership is a contextual phenomenon and explains how a formal EOTC

programme in an early childhood centre provided increased opportunities for teacher leadership regardless

of formal leadership position. Distributed leadership and relational leadership were idented as key

components of the programme. The article also explores how involvement with the EOTC programme and the

natural environment provided Signiant opportunities for the leadership development of children, in addition

to developing their physical abilities, independence and social skills. This article adds valuable knowledge in

the area of leadership opportunities resulting from involvement in an EOTC programme.

Leadership Style

The leadership style adopted by Christine is more relational in nature as she is keen on helping her team members through the challenges and operations of the early childhood education and care centre. She also takes time to get to know the team members and their areas of strength and weaknesses to improve the quality of service (C. Christine, personal communication, June 25, 2022). This is also called the affiliative style of leadership, where the leader focuses on the emotional and relational bonds between the team members, prioritises the welfare of the team, and believes in a people-first approach to work. The affiliative leader also works to increase team members’ sense of belonging to the organisation by assisting during crises and times of stress, enhancing ethics and morals, resolving conflicts among members, and improving communication within the organisation (Abukari, 2017).

Gagnon et al. (2012) researched affiliative style of leadership and found that working together as a team helps build knowledge and skills among the members as well as the leader. The relational or affiliative leader is different from the “hero” leader who draws upon his charisma to inspire others, as the affiliative leader draws upon the relationships he develops to inspire others.

Christine1 guides and assists others in her mentoring role, wanting them to accomplish their goals as well. There is an emphasis on the personal growth and individual success of the team members, beyond the achievement of the goals of the team and the organization. This is known as the transactional approach to leadership (Ibarra & Scoular, 2019) because Christine1 invests significant time and effort in mentoring and nurturing the team to upskill them, enhance their strengths, overcome their weaknesses, and actualise their potential by leveraging her relationship with the team members.

In a study by Peláez Zuberbuhler et al. (2020), the researchers investigated the benefits that coaching-based leadership can have on developing the skills and performance of team members in Spain. They found that adopting such an approach to leadership significantly increased the work engagement and performance of the members. Thus, there is evidence to support the benefits of the leadership style of Christine.

The overall approach of Christine1 can be categorised as democratic in nature as there is an appreciation of the individuality and diversity of the team members; use of the relational bonds among the members to engage them; and a more participative or collaborative approach to leadership (Bhatti et al., 2012).

National Quality Standard

The National Quality Standard (NQS) is published by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (2020). It sets the national quality benchmarks in Australia for the area of early childhood education (ECE) that occurs outside formal schools, such as in childcare service centres. The purpose of the guidelines is to ensure that the quality of care in various early learning and child care centres across Australia meets certain specific requirements. They are used for the regulation, assessment, and improvement of early childhood and care centres since 2012 (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority, 2020).

The National Quality Standard broadly covers seven areas of importance in childhood development and wellbeing, and is also used for the assessment of the ratings of the various affiliated early childhood education and care centres. Quality areas include educational programme and practice, health and safety, physical environment, staffing arrangements, relationships with children, collaborative partnerships with families and communities, and governance and leadership.

Quality area 7 covers governance and leadership, which involves the elements of service philosophy and purpose, management systems, roles and responsibilities, continuous improvement, educational leadership, and development of professionals. These are considered important since effective leadership can create shared values and directions for the services, culminating in continuous improvement in quality of the services (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority, 2020). The interview discussed the elements of service philosophy and roles and responsibilities

The leader met the elements of service philosophy (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority, 2020) as she showed a clear statement of philosophy of helping others, leveraging relationships, and personal development of the team. This guides all operations, such as management of teams, training, conflict resolutions, and decision-making (Barblett & Kirk, 2018).

The other element of roles and responsibilities (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority, 2020) is also met by Christine1 as there is a specified set of roles and responsibilities for her in the organisation. Moreover, these roles and responsibilities are clearly understood and actualised by her efforts. Her work profile includes both general and specific responsibilities such as quality care for the children by ensuring that the staff at the early childhood education and care centre is qualified to work with and passionate about children, adherence to the national quality standard, and so on. She is also actively involved in leading the team and the culture of the early childhood education and care centre by modelling the values of the Great3 organisation, promoting diversity, participation, and inclusion; ensuring the safety of the children and the team; supporting the families; enhancing the business performance of the early childhood education and care centre, among other responsibilities that govern the operations of the early childhood education and care centre (Thorpe et al., 2020).

Educational Leader

The educational leader was described by Christine1 as someone who overviews the programs and practices of the early childhood education and care centre to ensure that the National Quality Standard is adhered to. The roles and expectations include coordinating the learning activities of the different groups of children, supervising of the learning assistants to ensure that they can address the care and various developmental needs of the children, and continuously monitoring the achievement of different educational objectives (C. Christine, personal communication, June 25, 2022).

Some key responsibilities included guiding the development of the curriculum for the children, assessment of the needs and monitoring of the progress of the child, communicating with the parents, working on the relationship between the team members of Purple2, and ensuring that the environment is safe as well as stimulating for the children and the team, inculcating values of respect, integrity, curiosity, and duty, record-keeping, ensuring that the required resources are available, and publishing material when required (C. Christine, personal communication, June 25, 2022). These are similar to the roles and responsibilities that were described by Thomas and Nuttall (2013).

Her favourite part of her job was working with children, seeing them grow up, and working in a team with other people passionate about working with children. However, she disliked the paperwork and legal requirements that are applied and the challenges at work such as mandatory reporting that she found to be emotionally draining (C. Christine, personal communication, June 25, 2022). According to Movahedazarhouligh et al. (2020), educational leaders must display effective leadership when working in roles such as early childhood and special education. However, some of the obstacles they face in fulfilling these roles include the lack of more targeted support opportunities such as training and resources.

Tips for Leadership

Based on the interactions, it can be concluded that Christine1 suggests the following to enhance one’s leadership abilities: helping the team members to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals; knowing the members on an individual basis to develop better relations with them; adopting the value of equality and non-bias; being collaborative in approach rather than dictated; being creative and inventive; constantly using monitoring and feedback to engage in continuous improvement. She also suggested being open-minded, having a readiness to learn on a daily basis, developing different skill sets that may be required, and being a good listener and negotiator (C. Christine, personal communication, June 25, 2022).

Correa Gorospe and colleagues (2017) discussed these in-depth as well. Similarly, Yoon and Larkin (2016) explored the conflicts that may come when the professional values of the leader conflict with their personal values. This would explain why Christine1 feels distressed when she has to fulfil her professional responsibility of mandatory reporting when it is in contradiction to her personal values of family first. The authors discussed the implications of having ideology-based guidelines for professional conduct as being less effective when there is a contradiction between the guidelines or code of conduct and the personal beliefs of the person.

Conclusion

Leadership qualities are important attributes of management. Like other organizations, early childhood education and care centre also need to be managed and led well. As the literature on management shows, there are different forms of leadership styles that can be adopted by managers or leaders. Christine1 adopted the leadership styles of affiliative, transactional, and democratic leadership and implemented them at the early childhood education and care centre. The National Quality Standard governs the code of conduct of professionals working with children. The role of the leader was analyzed from that framework, and it was found that she met the guidelines for the elements of governance and leadership. Some tips and strategies for leadership in ECE were discussed and reported.

References

Abukari, A. (2017). The Nature of Leadership Styles of Leaders in Selected Polytechnics in Ghana. Journal of Business and Management, 19(06), 36–46. https://doi.org/10.9790/487x-1906023646

Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority. (2020, February 18). National Quality Standard. National Quality Standard. https://www.acecqa.gov.au/nqf/national-quality-standard

Barblett, L., & Kirk, G. (2018). National Quality Standard in Schools: Leadership Enabling Power and Agency. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 43(3), 43–51. https://doi.org/10.23965/ajec.43.3.05

Bhatti, N., Maitlo, G. M., Shaikh, N., Hashmi, M. A., & Shaikh, F. M. (2012). The Impact of Autocratic and Democratic Leadership Style on Job Satisfaction. International Business Research, 5(2), 192–201. https://doi.org/10.5539/ibr.v5n2p192

Correa Gorospe, J. M., Martínez-Arbelaiz, A., & Fernández-Olaskoaga, L. (2017). Professional identity and engagement among newly qualified teachers in times of uncertainty. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 26(1), 26–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/1350293x.2018.1412013

Davitt, G., & Ryder, D. (2018). Dispositions of a responsible early childhood education leader: Voices from the field. Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice, 33(1), 18–31. https://doi.org/10.21307/jelpp-2018-003

Gagnon, S., Vough, H. C., & Nickerson, R. (2012). Learning to Lead, Unscripted. Human Resource Development Review, 11(3), 299–325. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534484312440566

Ibarra, H., & Scoular, A. (2019, November 17). The Leader as Coach. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/11/the-leader-as-coach

McCrea, N. L. (2015). Leading and Managing Early Childhood Settings: Inspiring People, Places and Practices. Cambridge University Press.

Movahedazarhouligh, S., Banerjee, R., & Luckner, J. (2021). An Examination of Current Leadership Practices in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education: A Mixed Methods Study. Early Education and Development, 33(4), 700–722. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2021.1909937

Peláez Zuberbuhler, M. J., Salanova, M., & Martínez, I. M. (2020). Coaching-Based Leadership Intervention Program: A Controlled Trial Study. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03066

Thomas, L., & Nuttall, J. (2013). What does/can leadership look like in an early childhood education context?: An alternative to “doing” leadership and “being” the leader. Australian Educational Leader, 35(4), 40–42. https://doi.org/10.3316/ielapa.666220331562538

Thorpe, K., Westwood, E., Jansen, E., Menner, R., Houen, S., & Staton, S. (2020). Working Towards the Australian National Quality Standard for ECEC: what do we know? Where should we go? The Australian Educational Researcher, 48(2), 227–247. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13384-020-00387-8

Yoon, H. S., & Larkin, K. A. (2018). When tensions between ideology and practice become personal: Unpacking mentorship in early childhood teacher education. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 39(1), 50–72. https://doi.org/10.1080/10901027.2017.1404506

Appendix

Interview Transcript

Interviewer – How does your personal/ professional philosophy of ECE link with you being a leader in general and with your personal characteristics or manner of interacting, particularly with adults?

Leader – My philosophy is to help others achieve their goals. I do this by getting to know team members individually and working with their strengths and helping them improve their weaknesses. I treat every adult as an equal.

Interviewer – Describe your role in being an advocate for the whole field of early childhood education?

Leader – As an advocate of ECE, I ensure that I give all children a voice and allow them to develop a sense of agency. I also speak for educators to establish collaboration with them in all matters.

Interviewer – What are the most rewarding aspects of being an early childhood leader and manager (and maybe an administrator) and why?
Leader – I love to have an environment that the team, children, and their families enjoy coming to. I enjoy being able inventive and giving the children and team a place to express their creativeness, and of course watching the children grow.

Interviewer – Describe the role of the Educational Leader at your service?

Leader – Educational leader is someone who reviews out service pedagogy. They look over the program and practice to ensure we are meeting the National Quality Standard.

1

 Pseudonym for the leader

2

 Pseudonym for the child care centre

3

 Pseudonym for the parent organization for the early childcare and education centre