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Last updated by Tara Fagan

Written by Ann Hatherly, CORE Education, February 2011

Leadership belongs to everyone

What image springs to mind when you think of leadership in early childhood contexts?

Is it of a person who holds a formal position and gets paid accordingly because of their particular skills, experience, or charisma? Or is it of a team of teachers, who are well known and respected for their innovative practice or curriculum speciality? It is likely that the former view will dominate your thinking as most of us come from a long tradition of associating leadership with a position and a title.

The world we work in has become much more complex, diverse, and ever-changing. This is no more so than in early childhood education and has prompted calls for the reconceptualisation of leadership as a shared endeavour – the responsibility of all not just one.

While formal leadership is still important – let’s call this positional leadership – the ability to be responsive, innovative, and stay at the cutting edge of teaching and learning practice is also a significant part of maintaining a quality service these days. It takes the talent, perspectives, courage and energy of a whole team to realise positive outcomes for all children and their families.

This notion of leadership is often referred to as ‘pedagogical leadership’, ‘educational leadership’ or ‘leadership in learning and teaching’.

Here is how Linda Lambert defines leadership:

"Leadership is about learning together, and constructing meaning and knowledge collectively and collaboratively. It involves opportunities to surface and mediate perceptions, values, beliefs, information and assumptions through continuing conversations; to inquire about and generate ideas together; to seek to reflect upon and make sense of work in the light of shared beliefs and new information; and to create actions that grow out of these new understandings. Such is the core of leadership." [1]

This definition describes superbly the kind of leadership development intended through the MoE leadership programme which your service is part of.


Strategies and questions for team workshops

Reflective questions

  • When we think and talk about leadership what do we focus on?
  • What steps can we take to strengthen the idea of a shared, pedagogical leadership in this place?




  • [1] Lambert, L. (1998). Building leadership capacity in schools (p.5). Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.