A Provocation: Room for a view? Knowing your values, parking your biases

In this blog, ANNE STONEHOUSE reflects on the balance between the personal and the shared; between an early childhood leader’s openness to new ideas and certainty about their own values.

At the 2019 ECA National Conference in Hobart, a Box of 48 Leadership Provocations organised around the six Capabilities in ECA’s Leadership Capability Framework was launched. Some time ago ECA invited me, along with five other writers, to create cards related to one of the six Capabilities. I happily agreed to write provocations for the first Capability: ‘Makes children’s learning, development and wellbeing the core focus’.

Most leaders in our sector began as teachers or educators in education and care settings. Consequently, they bring to their roles as leaders strong views about what matters most in the experiences offered to children. These views, ranging from relatively minor issues to crucially important ones, may differ from the views of people you lead.

For example:
Perhaps you believe a bit of colouring-in won’t harm children, or maybe you think it has no place in the curriculum. You may believe that children need to be able to choose when and what they eat. You may want educators to introduce letter recognition experiences as early as possible. Perhaps the philosophy and practices of the local primary school, where many families in your setting will send their children, conflict in major ways with your ideas about children’s education.

One challenge you may face as a leader is deciding which of your beliefs are personal, individual, and which ones must be shared and enacted among the team you lead. This ability to reflect on your strong beliefs and values and the freedom you need to give your team to ‘decide for themselves’ is a feature of strong and effective leadership.

Some questions you might ask yourself include:
• What are some of your strongly held views that are contestable? What factors influence your decision to share or not share them with your team? How do you ensure that you express them accurately and honestly?
• What matters or practices are non-negotiable – that is, every team member needs to be ‘on-side’ with them?
• What matters do you negotiate with team members?
• What do you allow individual team members to do the way they believe is best?

Effective leaders need to be confident, to lead with conviction. Equally important is being open to changing some of your perspectives and beliefs for valid reasons. Striking a healthy balance between certainty and openness is one of the many challenges leaders face.

ECA Recommends

Early Childhood Australia Box of Leadership Provocations

This resource has been written by six of Australia’s leading Early Childhood experts: Anne Stonehouse, Anthony Semann, Susan Irvine, Catharine Hydon, Michelle Gujer, and Leanne Gibbs.

 Presenting the new ECA Box of Leadership Provocations, for leaders at all levels of early childhood education and care.  Each of the 48 provocation cards, which are organised under the six capabilities outlined in the ECA Leadership Capability Framework, includes questions to provoke discussion and debate. Using these cards does not rely on familiarity with ECA’s Leadership Capability Framework; however the cards and the framework complement each other and leaders will benefit if they use the two together. You can purchase your copy here on the ECA Shop.

Anne Stonehouse

Anne Stonehouse AM lives in Victoria and works as a consultant, writer and facilitator of professional learning in early childhood. She has published many books, articles and other resources for educators and parents. Her main professional interests are the nature of good quality curriculum for babies and toddlers and family-educator relationships in early learning settings. She was a member of the writing team in the Charles Sturt University-based consortium that developed the national Early Years Learning Framework. She is currently engaged in a number of projects related to the national and Victorian Frameworks.

One thought on “A Provocation: Room for a view? Knowing your values, parking your biases”

    Maree Aldwinckle says:

    Leadership like many relationships is about honesty, caring and ethical behaviour. We need to take care that in overanalysing that our behaviour doesn’t become soulless and self serving. We don’t want the type of leadership we see in our current political system permeating early childhood education and care.

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