Inspiring leadership in early childhood

When you type ‘leadership’ into Google you are overwhelmed with a wealth of information on leadership styles and techniques. Look up ‘leadership early childhood’ and one of the first references is a wonderful article from Every Child (Volume 18, Number 4, 2012) which outlines the qualities it takes to be a leader in the sector and the understandings we have as to what leadership truly is. Here I draw on my own experience of leading an exceeding service to give some practical tips for new leaders.

 1. Have a clear vision

When you go into any service as a leader, particularly a startup, it is important to have a clear vision of what you hope to achieve. Nanus (1992) recognised having a vision as a necessity for setting clear goals for workers. In the case of early childhood, I would suggest building a strong service philosophy which represents your vision. Including educators and families is an important part of ensuring ownership over the vision you are creating.

2. Shared leadership

Early childhood can be a draining sector to work in and wages are not representative of the work and knowledge of the educators. To assist in keeping educators motivated and passionate, allowing them a sense of ownership is fundamental. Shared leadership is one way of doing this, and it also takes some pressure off the Nominated Supervisor or Educational Leader. Having a leadership team that utilises the personal interests and strengths of the educators has endless benefits.

3. Regular educational meetings

One of the most important things we performed at our service was regular educational leader meetings. These were meetings where the leaders of the service could meet weekly to discuss any questions arising as well as current trends and events in the sector. Not only does this help ensure fluidity of the service, but it also helps to keep your leaders motivated and informed which they can take back to their respective rooms.

4. Mentorship—you can’t have one without the other

I firmly believe that leadership and mentorship in early childhood go hand in hand. To be a strong, motivating leader, one must ensure there is a strong mentorship program in place in their service. Every educator should have a mentor that inspires them in the sector—it helps change to be exciting instead of scary. Mentorship keeps people informed and motivated. If it is performed at your service, it should reflect real interests of the staff (avoid tokenism).

 5. Strive for innovation

Early childhood is a sector which constantly evolves and changes. New ideas about practice and approach emerge regularly. I believe in encouraging educators to be a part of that. There are different approaches to this, but we found it helpful to participate in pedagogical investigations. We would pose a question, then research and collect data to help answer that question. This encouraged collaboration and innovation.

6. Stay on the same page

Ensuring fluidity in your service is fundamental. Having the above process in place will help to keep your educators on the same page. Another great way of doing this is in-house professional development. Allowing all your educators to get together to participate in the same professional development (as regularly as their busy lives allow) will encourage this fluidity further as well as help to keep your team motivated.



Lewis, J., & Hill, J. (2012). What does leadership look like in early childhood settings? Every Child, 18(4).

Nanus, B. (1992). Visionary leadership: Creating a compelling sense of direction for your organization. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kate Hodgekiss

Kate has been in the sector for almost 20 years. Trained in Early Childhood Education at Macquarie University, Kate spent many years working as a teacher both inside and outside of Australia before commencing her management career. Over the course of her management career Kate has worked in a variety of roles including nominated supervisor, educational leader, start up consultant, regional manager and online program development creative head. Kate is passionate and known for her commitment to quality learning practices and environments, having directed a service as recently as 2016 through the assessment and rating process receiving the coveted exceeding in all 18 standards. Kate is the owner and director of Engaging Curriculum Solutions.

22 thoughts on “Inspiring leadership in early childhood”

    Marc Faber says:

    Thanks kate For sharing leadership styles and techniques for early childhood.

    Carly says:

    I like the idea of the pedagogical investigations… we’ll be implementing that at our next team meeting.

    harneet says:

    I learn more about leadership style and how effective leaders can influence others

    Susan Mulholland says:

    Reminds me of the importance of revisiting our philosophy and ensuring it continues to reflects our values and practices and community.

    Sunita Miranda says:

    Good understanding of leadership skills.

    Nikki Parawahera says:

    great ideas we can implement within the service.

    Mantee Elsee Rugjee says:

    I Like the idea of ensuring fluidity in your service and also pedagogical investigations, we’ll be implementing that within our teams.

    Victoria Tooala says:

    Thank you Kate,
    does make me think more about revisiting our center philosophy and just asking those questions to our staff, do they really understand our center philosophy? and encourage them to reflect on these philosophy.

    courtney says:

    great ideas.

    Sue Knowles says:

    great ideas here

    shae says:

    great ideas and something to think about in order to keep staff interested and invested within the centre.

    Amanda says:

    Loved all of these tips. When you think about their importance within a service I can see many ways in which they could be implemented within my own workplace.

    Rouba Halabi says:

    So many great ideas and thinking points. I will definitely need to share with my co educators.

    Pam Roberts says:

    Great article and something to share with all of our educators

    Melissa says:

    There really are some great ideas and talking points to share with the educators within my service

    Melissa says:

    An interesting read about having a clear vision as a leader, very insightful information to be able to share with my colleagues

    tracey norris says:

    striving for innovation is something we can take on board to look at changes postively.

    Kylie Broederlow says:

    Look forward to establishing and embeddeding the leadership practises within the centre

    Diane Ramesh says:

    A great resource to share with my co-educators.

    Melinda says:

    Leadership involves working together with others – providing opportunities to discuss, reflect and work together to build on changes and better practices

    jenny de Kretser says:

    great reminder to have all team members of the same page if possible.

    Kasey Williams says:

    It’s a great resource to share within my service with good ideas as well.
    It’s such a benefit when you’ve got all Educators on the same page and working towards the same goal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top