Leaders are born every day...Or are they?
9/2/2021 | Dr. Tamar Andrews
In the field of early childhood education, most of our leaders do not have formal LEADERSHIP training. Thinking back on the college courses you took, professional development hours you spent...were you trained at all for leadership or advocacy?
We need leaders and yet our industry does not regularly offer opportunities to receive leadership training. So, where do we go from here?
Although we often hear the phrase “natural born leader,” it’s misleading because true leadership takes skill and years of honing. It involves a myriad of characteristics and skills that don’t just happen naturally, but we do have people who are born with leadership traits that can be developed.
So what are those traits? And, more importantly, what is the difference between a manager and an actual leader?
Managers put out fires and check things off a list. They organize, figure out staffing patterns, food orders, and make sure to fill out all of the licensing paperwork. This is management.
Leaders inspire others. One of the truest tests of leadership includes providing a successful succession plan. Maybe this sounds overly dramatic, but a true leader thinks about how the early childhood program will operate if they are no longer there. This higher level of thinking drives their ability to identify potential leaders in their programs to begin nurturing those talents for succession. Additionally, to prevent a void in knowledge, leaders put into writing all of their policies, procedures, and other information that a future leader in their program would need to know. Here is an easy and appropriate way to look at leadership:
Leaders are passionate and love what they do. If they don’t absolutely love it, they CANNOT be a leader.
Every action, word, and decision is tied to their vision and they have a strong vision. Leaders understand that their actions carry the weight that will affect the future.
This is how a leader presents themselves to others. Even on a bad day, leaders are expected to excel. People with a fixed mindset tend to have a negative attitude. People with a growth mindset have a positive attitude and keep making improvements all the time. This short clip from Remember the Titans exemplifies the importance of the phrase “attitude reflects leadership.
How does a leader encourage people to have the drive and to jump on board? Leading by example is always a great motivator. They need to be driven to want to do better. Leaders recruit an army of those around them who have the passion, the vision, and the drive to communicate with each other.
Give them ownership, control, and even some risk-taking. Leaders lift those around them and trust that they’ll succeed when given the opportunity. Leaders have to be willing to let go of control to empower others.
Strong bonds are the heart of our business and should be emphasized in yours as well. In the movie, Forrest Gump Lt. Dan was not even nice to Forrest Gump. So what drew Forest to Dan throughout the movie? Honesty, predictability, consistency, trust, and though Dan criticizes Gump often, he does not let anybody else denigrate him. He defends Gump with utmost sincerity. Dan may bear somebody calling him a cripple, but he would hurt the person who dares to call Forrest “stupid.”
So now that you’ve gone through the guide, reflect on yourself. What are YOUR strengths? Where do you falter? Maybe you don’t even realize that people look up to you, how can you change your behavior to benefit them? Overall, do you have what it takes to lead?
Dr. Tamar Andrews is a world-renowned parenting expert and professor of early childhood education. She is also the director of a large early childhood education center in Los Angeles, CA.