Leadership in Early Childhood Education

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About this Competency

Leadership has been described as the intersection of knowledge, skills, character attributes, and personality traits that motivate others to work toward a common goal; it is demonstrated by early childhood educators in every role within the profession. In addition to possessing expertise in specific areas — such as understanding how children develop and learn, working with families, or supervising staff — early childhood education leaders need to understand the early childhood system itself and how policy shapes the quality of services available to children and families. A starting point for providing leadership is to evaluate one's current understanding of the early care and education system, reflect regularly to assess changes in one’s knowledge, and determine how that under - standing and knowledge can continue to develop (Whitebook and Austin 2009).

The diverse sectors in the early education profession challenge leaders to collaborate across many types of services and among variable poli - cies. Early childhood education services do not exist in isolation, and leaders are further challenged to understand the complex array of issues that impact the profession, develop skills to work collaboratively across disciplines and interest groups, and improve the quality of early care and education services that influence life opportunities for children and their families.

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California Early Childhood Educator Competencies

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies Wheel

Framing Questions

Framing questions identify some of the major themes in this competency. They provide you with a starting point. As you explore this competency, add your own framing questions for issues you want to further examine.

  • How do you develop a vision with those in your program and participate in setting the vision for the profession?
  • How do you become a catalyst to influence systems change?
  • How do you ensure the development of diverse leadership through your choices?


Keep these dispositions in mind as you explore the Framing Questions. If you mindfully adopt these dispositions, you will realize the Desired Outcomes for Practitioners and for Children.

  • Believes in, values, and is committed to advocacy for high-quality early care and education experiences for all children, support for families, and professional stature of educators.
  • Believes in, values, and is committed to leadership development that empowers, encourages, cultivates, and supports others to become agents of change.
  • Believes in, values, and is committed to working with others who have diverse perspectives, both within and outside the early care and education profession, to share expertise, resolve conflict, negotiate cultural differences, and develop common goals.
  • Believes in, values, and is committed to facilitating dialogue to reach a vision of the early care and education system that is shared and supported by the early childhood community.
  • Believes in and engages in self-reflection about personal leadership skills and identifies areas for continuous improvement (Whitebook and Austin 2009).

Desired Outcomes for practitioners

If I have these dispositions, then I will…

  • participate in a network of allies.
  • empower leaders at all levels.
  • take on leadership roles.
  • keep current with issues in the field.
  • deepen my commitment to advocacy and take action.

Desired Outcomes for Children

If teachers and caregivers have these dispositions, then children will…

  • experience the benefits of high quality ECE programs.

Keys to Reflection and Inquiry

The CompSAT Keys to Reflection and Inquiry offer you a protocol to use in whatever setting you work as an early childhood educator. Learn how you can integrate the six Keys into your work. Select one of the Keys below to practice reflecting with questions related to the competency area of Leadership in Early Childhood Education.


Choose from one of the Keys below to view additional information related to this Competency!

Build Your Portfolio

Newsletters provide a great platform for documentation.

Portfolio screenshot

Newsletters can be valuable tools for communicating with parents and your community. Why not also use them for documenting your work in a particular area? Take a look at the newsletter series that one director wrote that chronicled the work she, her staff, and the whole community did to re-envision their program. A wide variety of free templates are available online for creating a newsletter that fits your style and needs.

View the Portfolio Sample

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