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Leaders and Management in the Early Childhood Setting

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Childcare
Wordcount: 2845 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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This essay looks into the quote by Rodd (2013), ‘Understanding leadership in early childhood has been plagued by its confusion with the concept of management’.  The roles of leaders and management in the early childhood setting are investigated and studied, considering how their abilities and characters are interconnected amid the two sides, adding to the perplexity. Modern philosophies of leadership and styles are reviewed, alongside their implementation to early childhood settings.

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Within the last thirty years, the Early Childcare Education [ECE] division has grown into a strong organization, that comprises of a large number of managers and leaders encompassed in a worldwide industry. The addition of the National Quality Framework [NQF], by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority [ACECQA] (2017), the composition of Early Childhood Education has altered from staff being guided by the director of the centre, to a collective management sensation (Nupponen 2005).

Quality Area 7 of the National Quality Standards [NQS], (ACECQA, 2017) covers Governance and leadership. The quality area includes three standards; 7.1: Successful leadership advocating for a constructive organisational culture which develops a professional learning group. Standard 7.2: commitment to enhance and reflect on one’s knowledge and development, and finally standard 7.3: where the centre is to be proficiently and successfully steered towards producing a quality Early Childhood Educational setting. These directly affect all other facets of the National Quality Standards, towards producing a successful Early Childhood Educational setting, that is attaining improved outcomes for children’s education and development (ACECQA, 2017).

Leadership is intricate and complex owing to the sector's diversity (Waniganayake, Cheeseman, Fenech, Hadley and Shepherd, 2012). Moreover, leadership proficiencies will be contingent upon individual principles, philosophical systems, qualifications and training, the actual setting, and its community structure, along with the position held within it. The sector consists of a majority of females most of which are young, and less experienced, increasing the complexity of the sector (Scrivens, 2002). Leadership does not have one clear definition in an early childhood setting, as each person in the setting should contribute to the leadership, however, it lacks due to a deficiency in staff education in this area, leaving little information on what it requires, adding to the misperception of roles (Waniganayake et al., 2012).

Leaders generally concentrate on the future, steering the routine success of the setting, forming aims and a vision for the setting (Rodd, 2013). The definition of leadership is a progression of engagement; persuading and inspiring peers to collaborate and share in the values and vision of the setting, supporting, and meeting the needs of all the shareholders in the setting (Rodd, 2013). Educators are normally seen as enthusiastic, inventive, creative, considerate, compassionate, open-minded, amicable, loving, and flexible. However, a manager, is driven by the routine governing of the setting, its procedures, continuing and supporting the philosophies, and are described as being organised and professional.  Characteristics additionally comprise of being assertive, realistic, governing, however, remaining accessible and compassionate. It is disputed that management and leadership exist implanted within each other, intersecting and exchangeable (Nupponen 2005).  Kagan and Bowman (1997) state there are five sides of leadership which also integrate managerial functions, adding to the perplexity that the quotation emphasises (Rodd, 2013).  A pedagogical leader is the initial role; being knowledgeable with research, ideas and have a comprehensive understanding of early childhood development.  Pedagogical leaders are accountable for sharing the practices with children’s families and the community.  This position is usually executed by the educational leader but can done by room leaders too.

The next side of a leader in early childhood settings is clerical management, which is normally executed by the director.   Responsibilities comprise of accounting, rostering, and maintaining staff and ratios, policy application, development of staff, keeping records and sustaining the legislative and regulatory obligations (Kagan & Bowman, 1997).

The third side is support leadership, this is safeguarding social justice and equity are maintained in the setting and in the future.  This may incorporate the expansion of policies, accomplishing transformation and enhancements for children, families, and society (Kagan & Bowman, 1997).  Management and leadership roles both may execute this function.

The fourth side is community leadership, which connects to cultivating and establishing networks to assist families and children, along with linking others with the centre (Kagan and Bowman, 1997).  This position has both leaders and management both contributing.

The final side of the leadership position is theoretical leadership (Kagan and Bowman, 1997).  This denotes mostly to the early childhood industry, with respects to conditions of work, disagreements with wages and professionalism.  The leader needs to be imaginative, to improve policies, and investigate was at refining every one of the areas, the director or curriculum leader would normally preform this position.

Educators may be aware that they are leading on a routine day, requiring them to be both a leader and an educator at the same time (Rodd, 2013).  Characteristically, educators will do what is necessary, for the setting to progress efficiently and abide by the authority configurations. It is not obvious what distinguishes the two positions (Rodd, 2013). Typically, leaders guide people to inspire and improve others, while managers manage the clerical aspect, all of the purposes, procedures and people included in the centre (Rodd, 2013).     

To be a productive leader, it is imperative to be a well organised manager (Rodd, 2013). In contrary, not all managers make successful leaders, nonetheless management intersects that of leadership, as the area is specialised, proving the misperception as referred to in the quote (Rodd, 2013).  There are arguments that both positions have equivalent significance and ought to be a cooperative contribution, flattering one another, so all can make a transformation in the lives of children (Waniganayake et al., 2012).  Rodd (2013) believes that all staff in the setting ought to share in the leadership every day, to enable the setting to run efficiently and profitably for all encompassed in the setting.

Philosophies and theories deliver a framework for educators to utilise to cultivate their leadership and managerial abilities. These are historically male derived, and do not denote to the early childhood education division. Thus, adding to the complexity in distinguishing leadership in the field, in accord with the quote by Rodd (2013).  Research is however developing and according to Rodd (2013), has described some that are applicable to the early childhood sector.

A popular notion of leadership used today in early childhood settings is Distributed Leadership.  It understands that staff have particular comprehension, abilities, and proficiencies, and decisively delivers the roles and responsibilities onto the staff that hold those skills, where they can focus on, creating a cooperative ethos.   It is debated that there can be challenges, as it necessitates designations of jobs, or for a person to wait for a position to open, where their abilities can be applied. Educators can get irritated about their abilities not being used and relocate to other centres.  Co-workers may also rival with each other and cause bad choices to be made (Rodd 2013).

The Transformational theory is thought to be more operative, as it motivates, inspires, and gives power to co-workers with mutual philosophies and a foresight to attain greater results for everyone (Rodd 2013).  Leaders will use their individual qualities of ‘enthusiasm, energy, drive, ethics and commitment’ (Rodd, 2013, p.47), to allow others to pursue, and motivate themselves to look for new original ways of doing things, to take initiative and add worth to the setting.  Leaders who are predisposed by the transformational theory will have qualities of being open minded, compassionate, and unbiased, normally in the position of curriculum leader (Rodd, 2013).  Additionally, they can tutor others, guide, and deliver motivation.  A leader well-versed by the transformational theory, may also converse possible personal development prospects to expand on areas of interest. 

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Not all theories will suit every person or every setting, as it is reliant on each person’s motivations, principles, ambitions, and ethics, where leaders and managers must be adaptable when managing philosophies and policies and modify the method.  Likewise, to there not being one distinct classification of leadership and managers in early childhood education, there is no single philosophy or theory that clarifies how to lead or manage, furthering the misperception (Rodd, 2013).

Katz (1979) established a successive phase that early childhood educators advance through when joining the industry.  Firstly, entering the industry in the survival phase, where the educator is concentrating on getting through the day, hopeful that all responsibilities are achieved.  This survival focused educator will consequently be mentored and educated by a more knowledgeable educator/s and possibly be in need of help and reinforcement in periods of pressure, apprehension and/or crisis.

The educator then transfers on to the consolidation phase as they achieve more comprehension and experience (Rodd, 2013).  This phase is explained as examining deeper in to their position, recognising children who are struggling and require extra assistance, as well as working together with other educators to find solutions and present their own contribution, it is now where an educator might take on the community leadership (Kagan and Bowman’s 1997).  

The third phase is the renewal stage, in which an educator, generally in their third or fourth year in the industry, begins to explore the development of their abilities and joining professional development courses, communicating with other educators, and studying articles to develop pedagogy (Katz 1979).  At this phase they are additionally accepting leadership responsibilities (Kagan & Bowman, 1997).

The maturity phase is the concluding phase in Katz’s (1979) model, normally in an educators fifth year, educators are confident and proficient in their work.  The majority of these educators will be leading and/or managing others, implementing administrative responsibilities, and usually advocating for children, along with the profession in an entirety (Kagan & Bowman, 1997).  Experienced educators might additionally be participating in personal development courses, conferences, and symposiums to expand their expertise and comprehension with more convolution (Katz, 1997).

In similarity to Katz (1997) model of early childhood educator’s advancement in the sector, Collins (2001) suggests a model which explains the stages of leadership that an early childhood educator will proceed through.  Level five is the peak of the hierarchy that the majority of educational leaders, aim to attain (Rodd, 2013).

An early childhood educator at stage one in the chain of command is a proficient person Collins (2001). Adding to the daily operations of the centre, ensuring that the children and family’s requirements met (Rodd, 2013).  At stage two, the early childhood educator is developing proficiencies and comprehension that advances them to be a participating colleague, helping the team to work collaboratively.  At this stage they are perhaps now possessing the label of room leader, as they may have obtained personal development courses and attained abilities that they impart and communicate to co-workers (Rodd, 2013).

Stage three of the ladder of leadership, denotes to this stage as being a proficient manager, an example of this being, an educator in a senior position such as a director of the centre (Collins 2001). Most early childhood educators will be ‘observed in levels 1 – 3’, with smaller quantities of educators desiring to reach level four or five (Rodd, 2013).  Stage four is an efficient and successful leader; this phase as imaginative, with a spotlight on the upcoming (Collins, 2001).  The early childhood educator is most likely to be a part of a considerably bigger and more cooperative progression, where transformation can develop and evolve for the centre.

Stage five is explained as an executive leader, owning all the abilities and proficiencies necessary for all the former stages, but additionally showing more developed comprehension.  An individual educator at this level may have a perplexing consciousness of individual modesty, combined with personal resolve (PowurPBC, 2016).  A large number of individuals are not able to attain this level, as they retain too much ego.  This stage comprises of an individual that is the definitive team player, assuming culpability and accountability for any malfunctions.  These educators hold an aspiration to get matters done, and the resolve and confidence to make it transpire, these educators understand how to lead and are effective at it.  PowurPBC (2016) states that this is the greatest model of leadership, as it imparts how individuals can progress from being decent to remarkable.

ACECQA (2017) encourage all early childhood educators to participate in leadership responsibilities, along with managerial tasks.  This conception is triggering misunderstanding, as Rodd (2013) articulates in the quotation, where early childhood educators are uncertain of the exact functions and obligations, with several roles coinciding and interlacing amongst leadership and management. There is no one solitary theory, philosophy, or model that early childhood educators ought to use, but they should take on a holistic methodology and employ all of them with particular co-workers and within the suitable situations, heading towards accomplishing the greatest possible outcomes for the children (Rodd 2013).


  • Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority [ACECQA], (2018). Leadership and management in education and care services: An analysis of Quality Area 7 of the National Quality Standard.  Retrieved from https://www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-02/OccasionalPaper5-LeadershipManagementEducationCareServices.PDF
  • Kagan, S.L., & Bowman, B. T. (1997). Leadership in early care and education. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
  • Katz, Lilian, G. (1979). The developmental stages of teachers.  Retrieved from http://ecap.crc.uiuc.edu/pubs/katz-dev-stages/index.html
  • Nupponen, H., (2005). Leadership and Management in Child Care Services: Contextual factors and their Impact on Practice. Retrieved from https://eprints.qut.edu.au/16094/1/Hannele_Nupponen_Thesis.pdf
  • Rodd, J. (2006). Leadership in early childhood. (3rd ed.). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.
  • Rodd, J. (2013). Leadership in early childhood: the pathway to professionalism (4th ed.). Berkshire, England: Open University Press.
  • Scrivens, C. (2002). Constructions of leadership; Does gender make a difference? In V. Nivala & E. Gujala (Eds.), Leadership in early childhood (pp. 23-32). Retrieved from http://herkules.oulu.fi/isbn9514268539/isbn9514268539.pdf
  • PowurPBC (2016). Level 5 leadership. Retrieved from      https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=dNffaXdeiPY
  • Waniganayake, M., Cheeseman, S., Fenech, M., Hadley, F. & Shepherd, W. (2012). Leadership: contexts and complexities in early childhood education. South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford.


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