How Do They Manage? An Investigation of Early Childhood Leadership

Carol Aubrey, Ray Godfey, Alma Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (SciVal)


Early childhood (EC) leadership literature indicates few theoretically based studies identifying and testing different models and characteristics of leadership. Objectives were thus to identify, describe and analyse what leadership meant to key EC participants; to consider roles, responsibilities and characteristics; to investigate core components; to capture practice and judge how it was understood and enacted. A case-study approach used 12 sites and multiple data-gathering methods: questionnaires; interviews; and in-depth ‘day in the life’ video vignettes. Participants described their organizations as hierarchical in structure and traditional in strategic decision-making, yet collaborative in culture and operational functioning. Variation in leadership, management and administration patterns across settings indicated multiple leadership roles in diverse EC settings. Principal components analysis revealed that those with postgraduate qualifications favoured ‘leaders as guides’; those with professional heritages other than teaching leaned towards ‘leaders as strategists’; those with NVQ qualifications tended towards ‘leaders as motivators’; those with postgraduate qualifications also valued ‘leaders as business oriented’. New models of leadership are thus worthy of consideration. Leaders acknowledged difficulty in standing back and reflecting, recognizing an essential aspect of leadership was ongoing thinking and decision-making, inaccessible unless they ‘talked-aloud’ whilst engaging in professional practice. This suggests a need to increase self-understanding and alternative routes to problem-solving.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-29
Number of pages25
JournalEducational Management Administration and Leadership
Issue number1
Early online date28 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


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