‘The only real training for leadership is leadership.’ Antony Jay
Owners frequently ask me “Laura, do you know any decent managers, I have a vacancy to fill?” They also ask ”Why aren’t there enough decent managers?” I have to agree with these owners and think that, as a sector, we need to reflect on this and find solutions.
An effective manager is one who can truly lead a setting into a zone of quality. Over the years I have had many difficult conversations with managers where I have had to inform them that actually their setting is being managed and not led. There are many tell tale signs, for example the quality of the setting is ineffective and the manager does not have clarity around their visions and values in order to lead the setting. I come away scratching my head, thinking this person has been in post for x amount of years and has attended leadership and management training. But, they are not leading their setting! On the other hand it is a joy to see managers who are effective and productive leaders and are able to continuously improve their setting.
I believe that we should place more emphasis on leadership and even consider using the term Setting Leader as supposed to Setting Manager. As we know, there is a clear difference between a leader and a manager.
One owner who has been trying to recruit a manager for the last 18 months said to me in frustration ”Laura, I need a leader, not a manager!” If we think about this, anyone can manage, for instance a practitioner manages to set up their room in the morning. But, this does not make them a leader. I also believe that not everyone can lead, even if they have been on numerous leadership and management courses! Also, an effective deputy is sometimes not suitable to transfer into the role of setting manager.
I believe that as a sector we need to prioritise training in this area. Although, leadership and management training has its benefits for existing managers, the focus should be on identifying future leaders. I have seen many practitioners, staff without early years qualifications and even 16 year olds, who I can clearly see have that ‘special something’ which would make them an effective leader, from their confidence, vision and reflective approach. However, sometimes the ‘special something’ can be sucked out of the practitioner from having an ineffective management team and/or being in a poor quality setting.
There are colleagues who say that existing leadership and management training and even elements of the Early Years Professional Status should give a manager what they need in order to lead. If this is this case, why are we not seeing effective managers and leaders in our settings?
I think we should come together as a sector and devise a national programme of training: ‘Future Leaders in Early Years’ . More importantly the training and development has to be early years focused and not just generic leadership and management training. Within my current leadership training courses, I have a strong focus around the individual’s personal development, as you can’t lead others without knowing who you are and how your behaviour impacts on others. This fits into our sector very well as we carefully support children with their emotional well-being; we need to mirror this onto our staff.
Leadership training should give future leaders the skills and knowledge that they need to be innovative, creative and passionate about their role. Although within any leadership training there is a place for theory, there should be clear links as to how the theory links to practice within an early years setting. This will help our settings to be effective and more importantly owners no longer saying ‘Why can’t I find a decent manager?’
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