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The Concept of Leadership in the ECDE Professional Setting

The concept of leadership

The concept of leadership is the process through those tasked with responsibility and authority, which includes the executive providing guidance, direction and influence the actions, behaviors, and work of others to enable them to accomplish certain specific goals in organizational setting or other contexts of professional, business or social life. In a nutshell, leadership is the ability of leaders or managers to influence their subordinates to work confidently, competently, and with zeal. There is potential in leadership to influence the behavior of others towards certain desired behaviors, attitudes, or actions (Zhang, 2018). The development of future visions is also another important concept of leadership. In this regard, leaders should have the ability to envision what the future of their societies, organizations, or businesses should be like. They should, in extension, can enable others to have the same vision, which is a necessary part of ensuring that they achieve their vision. In organizational settings, leadership should have the capacity to influence subordinates and other workgroups towards realizing organizational goals through directing and influencing their actions and behaviors towards making their individual and collective contributions towards realizing the organization’s goals. In early childhood development education, leadership is defined as the ability to influence or persuade to enthusiastically contribute towards the achievement of defined objectives. Even though different types of definitions of leadership according to different scholars, several common characteristics have been identified for effective leadership. These include having integrity, being an effective communicator, accountability, vision, the capacity to effectively, delegate, being humble, and having the capacity to empathize (Gandolfi and Stone, 2018). A key definition of leadership can have others do what is required of them to achieve certain important goals for the leader and the group in general. In addition, an effective leader can translate their vision into reality which involves presenting their vision to others so that it is easily understandable and presenting them proper guidance on the steps and actions that have to be taken to achieve the vision.

Leadership in ECDE

In ECDE, leadership is important in providing support and sustenance in providing high-quality early childhood education. In addition, effective leadership helps to create a stimulating environment that fosters learning and development for the children while at the same time ensuring that teachers work in a healthy and professional environment (Elrehail et al., 2018). The setting of ECDE leadership leads to the establishment of organizational conditions that positively impact the process of delivering quality education, effective teaching staff engagement, and working conditions essential for continuous development and learning. In a nutshell, in ECDE, effective leadership helps to foster the learning of children their development and ensures that their well-being is given priority (Shaked et al., 2018). For both the teaching and non-teaching staff in the ECDE, effective leadership helps to ensure that there is effective mitigation of stress that may emerge from the various elements of such as the provision of education, care and accommodation of children with special needs, providing education to a large number of children, the documentation of the development of children and from administrative work.

Leadership theories

There are different types of leadership theories that apply the setting of ECDE. Having a proper understanding of the leadership theories and styles is important in ensuring that leadership is more effective in its roles, especially in the ECDE setting, where leadership requires frequent collaborative efforts between the leaders and the teaching and non-teaching staff. Three main theories of leadership apply to the setting of ECDE. These are the great man theory, the trait theory, the situational theory, the behavioral theory, the transformational theory, and the transactional theory. According to the great man theory of leadership, good leaders are not developed but are born with great leadership abilities and skills. This theory was popular in the 19th century, and according to it, leadership is an innate quality. Leaders possess different natural leadership attributes such as charm, confidence, courage, intelligence, and intuition (Henkel and Bourdeau, 2018). According to the trait theory of leadership, there are specific natural qualities that naturally good leaders have. However, having certain qualities does not mean that one has strong leadership. Still, some leaders may have certain skills that make them excellent leaders, such as good communicators and good listening skills. The behavioral theory emphasizes the kind of environment that a person develops, which determines whether or not they acquire the qualities that make them a good leader. Conditioning is one of the main elements of the behavioral theory whereby a leader is likely to act in a certain style due to how they respond to their environment. The management theory is another term used to describe the transactional theory of leadership, which emphasizes studying and analyzing leadership as a system of penalties and rewards. It perceives leadership as having levels or hierarchies and being focused on attaining specific results. The relationship theory is another term for the transformational theory, which describes that effective leadership results from the development of positive relationships between leaders and their subordinates. Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their subordinates and teams through their passion and enthusiasm (Walls, 2019). The situational theory focuses on the attributes of a specific type of leader or emphasizes that leadership style is the best. Still, instead, it argues that is based on the argument that the best type of leadership is whereby the leader adapts their leadership style to prevailing situations. A leader may respond to the prevailing situations through changing or adopting new participation, command, persuasion, coaching, and delegation to whichever approach they think is necessary for that situation. Being flexible is one of the most important attributes of situational leaders (Ruslan et al., 2020). In the ECDE setting, one of the most appropriate leadership styles is situational leadership due to the dynamic and ever-changing nature of the environment, which calls for leadership to regularly adapt their leadership styles to suit prevailing situations.

Situational leadership in the ECDE setting

The situational leadership model is most effectively applied to the ECDE setting. In essence, situational leadership requires leaders to take stock of the resources available to them, consider the several types of variables in the ECDE setting and their team members and then choose the leadership style that best suits their circumstances and goals. According to contemporary leadership philosophies, the leader was the boss in the past. Still, in the modern setting, leadership is no longer based on the power that comes with the position but rather on the ability of the leaders to adapt their leadership style to the needs of the workplace, the capabilities of their teams, and the desired organizational goals and outcomes (Suarna et al., 2020). Situational leadership is the model of choice in the ECDE setting where the goal of leadership should be to develop effective teams and workgroups, establishment of rapport between the learners and the teaching staff, and adopt a common leadership style across all units of the ECDE settings.

The ECDE setting in developing countries is faced with a myriad of challenges ranging from the inadequate training of teachers, perennial staffing shortages, lack of teaching and learning aids, and inadequate infrastructures such as classrooms and other types of learning facilities. As such, leadership in the ECDE setting is often called upon to bridge the gap between the desired learning and teaching outcomes and the various challenges and shortcomings plaguing the specific learning environments (Suarna et al., 2020). There are several characteristics of the situational leadership style that make it the most appropriate for the ECDE setting, particularly in developing countries. These include being flexible, trustable, coaching abilities, having deep insight, and possession of adequate problem-solving skills. In the ECDE setting, situational leaders area must be able to seamlessly shift from one type of leadership to other leadership styles. Leaders in the ECDE setting have to deal with various situations and constantly lead various types of stakeholders such as the teaching staff, the learners, and the non-teaching or subordinate staff. Being flexible enables the leader to swiftly shift from one type of leadership to another according to the kind of teams they and situations they are dealing with. In the ECDE setting of third-world countries, the situational leader must gain the trust and confidence of his followers. For instance, gaining the trust and confidence and trust of the teachers, learners, parents, and the local education board increases the chances that leadership in the ECDE setting will effectively steer their teams towards attaining set outcomes and goals. In the ECDE setting, effectively coaching their teams is an essential and desirable characteristic of the situational leader (Suarna et al., 2020). The leader must effectively determine the competence, emotional intelligence, and maturity of their followers and then adopt the right leadership strategy to enhance their followers’ character and capabilities. Having deep insight is for the situational leader in the ECDE setting means being in a position to accurately understand the needs of their followers and then making the necessary adjustments to their leadership style to meet those needs. In the ECDE setting of developing countries, various types of problems arise daily. The situational leader must effectively solve such problems, which also involves ensuring that the job is done by adopting the appropriate leadership style.

The benefits and gaps of situational leadership in the ECDE setting

There are several benefits of adopting the situational leadership style in the ECDE setting at the national and international levels. The first benefit is that the situational leadership style is relatively easy to use compared to other leadership styles. It can be adopted and effectively used by all types of leaders, even those with minimal leadership experience. In particular, situational leadership is beneficial in the ECDE setting since it is easily applicable and adaptable to particular learning environments. The second benefit of situational leadership is its simplicity. The leadership style needs only an evaluation of the situation by the leader and then application of the appropriate leadership style following the settings of particular ECDE environments. A straightforward leadership style means that the leader can focus on other important aspects of leadership, which increase the chances of attaining the desired organizational goals in the ECDE setting. Having the power to choose the desired management style is another important benefit of situational leadership in the ECDE setting (Raza and Sikandar, 2018). The leader does not have to seek the permission of their seniors or subordinates to change their management style, which minimizes time wastage and prevents bottlenecks that characterize the ECDE setting, in particular in developing countries.

There exist several gaps in the situational leadership style in the ECDE setting. First, the situational leadership style is best suited for ECDE environments in developed countries with more open and progressive cultures. It is not suitable for developing countries with more autocratic and less progressive cultures. The model is very effective in the ECDE setting of countries such as America and the United Kingdom. Still, it does not consider the communication styles and priorities of other more conservative cultures that are characteristic of developing countries. Another important gap in situation leadership style is that it can divert attention from organizational goals and priorities. It is easy for the situational leaders in the ECDE setting to get carried away with their interests in leadership at the expense of organizational goals.


Effective leadership is an important part of any organization as it ensures that the work teams are adequately organized, motivated, and directed. There are different leadership styles based on the characteristics of the leadership as well as the cultures, goals, and priorities of the organization (Mudiyantun, 2019). The situational leadership style emphasizes flexible leadership that is dependent on prevailing organizational situations, particular settings, and specific groups of work teams. In the ECDE setting at the national and international levels, the situational leadership style is the most effective since it responds to the organization’s needs, the learners, the teachers, and the particular learning situations.


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