1.1 Leadership skills in practice
In the next activity you will listen to the audio sequence ‘Biographies’ and think about the professional qualities, attitudes and abilities linked to leadership.
Activity 2 Leadership skills in practice
The objective of this activity is for you to identify the professional qualities, skills and abilities of a leader.
Listen to the audio sequence ‘Biographies’, where five practitioners – Beth, Catherine, Donna, Julie and Kirsty – talk about their personal and professional experiences.
Make notes on the personal and professional qualities, experiences, skills, knowledge and attitudes that demonstrate abilities of a leader. For example: they may have confidence, be able to communicate or reflect, take responsibility or make decisions; they may be flexible, ambitious or enthusiastic; they may be willing to learn, train and develop themselves.
Now reflect on your own personal and professional qualities, experiences, skills, knowledge and attitudes. Write a pen portrait of yourself, highlighting your key strengths, areas for development and any other factors that influence your ability as a leader of, or in, a team.
Below is an extract from Sarah’s journal notes.
I think I have some leadership skills and qualities because I get on well with people, especially parents. My communication skills are good and I do accept other people’s viewpoints. I think I am patient and a good listener. However, I am not very good at telling people what to do, as I don’t like conflict or confrontation. I like being given responsibility and making decisions about things, but sometimes I find it hard to put my ideas forward in case they are criticised. Sometimes I bury my head in the sand rather than try to solve a problem. I am beginning to help others in the team who have just started working with us, and this has made me more confident. I am a trustworthy person and honest, plus I don’t mind working hard, which is important as I think it is good to lead by example. I want to learn more and be able to make changes in my setting.
In practice, leadership is usually a varied, fragmented process, enacted in a context of change and interwoven among day-to-day management tasks. Beyond doubt, leadership is only effective if it develops the leadership of those in the team. The role of the leader, therefore, is to consciously encourage others to lead themselves. The purpose of this is not to make the leader’s life easier, but to use everyone’s talents to best effect. Leaders play a significant role in enabling other practitioners to develop the necessary capabilities to enhance the quality of provision. Perhaps it is important that,as a practitioner, you aspire to adopt the qualities of leadership identified by McCall and Lawlor (2000) who suggest that:
Leadership must be visionary. Leaders must hold some idea of the future, the distant horizon and full game plan and they need the capacity to maintain personal and team momentum on the journey towards securing the desired goal. They must also show rich human qualities such as an allegiance to a mission, curiosity, daring, a sense of adventure and strong interpersonal skills, including fair and sensitive management of those who work with them. They must be able to motivate themselves and others, demonstrate a commitment to what they espouse, release the talents and energies of others, have strength of character, yet remain flexible in attitude and be willing to learn new techniques and new skills.
If you do not already have responsibility for aspects of the provision in your setting, as you become more competent, knowledgeable and experienced as a practitioner, you should find opportunities to exercise leadership skills in your work with children, families and the wider community. Effective provision requires leaders, and all practitioners, to continually reflect on children’s experiences in their setting and, in partnership with families and other professionals, to initiate change for improvement.
Activity 3 Identifying instances of leadership
The objective of this activity is for you to identify opportunities to demonstrate leadership in day-to-day practice.
Watch the following video sequence, ‘Parents’ evening’, which was recorded at a Pathways nursery in Warwick. As you watch and listen, jot down possible instances of leadership that you identify in what is being said and discussed by Caroline and other staff featured. What examples of practice might be used as evidence of leadership?
You may have noted the knowledge that Caroline displayed about the EYFS and Every Child Matters frameworks. Maybe you picked up the changes suggested for a future parents’ evening. You can show evidence of leadership without having a designated leadership role. Therefore, you may have identified an instance where leadership qualities were being displayed, such as in the sequence shown to the parents of the children playing, where they were being given some responsibility by the practitioner. You may also have thought about what went into planning and leading such an evening for parents and carers. What evidence might there be of working with other professionals, for example?