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Marissa Schneggenburger

5 Ways to Be a Better ECE Leader 

  • November 22, 2023

“Leaders should empower, inspire, and guide their team. They should be relentless in their mission and strive for continuous improvement.” – Scott Wayman, Founder & CEO of Kangarootime 

A strong leader greatly affects the culture of an organization. Positive leadership can improve staff retention rates, increase productivity, boost enrollment, and more. With today’s staffing crisis, owners and directors are looking for ways to empower their staff and improve their programs. By focusing on leadership, owners and directors can create a better working environment, attract high quality staff, and focus on child development. 

If you’re looking for ways to become a better leader in early childhood education, keep reading. 

1. Start positioning teachers as leaders 

When you recognize your staff’s effort, give them credit for their contributions, and treat them as leaders, they will act as such. Offer them support and guidance as they navigate their role and ensure they know how important their job is. When coaching them or discussing ways to improve, focus on their positive attributes first. When educators understand their importance and are given the role of leaders, they’re encouraged to do their jobs effectively and offer support to their team. 

2. Live by your mission, vision, and values 

Today’s workforce values mission and purpose more than pay. (Gartner.com) By creating your mission, vision, and core values, you’re helping current and future employees understand the meaning of their work and what your organization is hoping to accomplish. Make these clear by displaying them in your center and living them each day. If it’s easier, select 2-3 things like “kindness” or “always focusing on play in learning” and really focus on them.  

3. Be available 

Hold coaching sessions and office hours to connect with staff and allow them the option to seek guidance. In one-on-one meetings, you’ll create a space for staff to ask questions and discuss any problems they’re having.  

  • What brought you to this profession? 
  • What do you want to accomplish? 
  • How do you think your activities went today? 

By understanding their motivation, you’ll be able to empower them and give them ownership over their performance. These meetings also encourage self-reflection and increase professionalism. 

4. Build trust within your center 

Creating a safe and trusting working environment takes time and patience. However, the result allows for a positive work culture, encouragement between staff members, and a higher quality center. To build trust, start by being present and mindful of interactions at your program. Build up your program by mediating between staff, setting an example, and reinforcing positive behavior.   

5. Self-reflect 

A good leader is always looking to improve and understand their own behaviors, thoughts, and actions. Reflect on how you react to situations and where you can hone your leadership skills. Some ways to practice self-reflection include: journaling, small group discussions, trainings, and webinars

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