Quality in caregiving.

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The seven building blocks of success

What it needs to be a good kindergarten leader

Educators in the early childhood sector usually enter this profession with a profound love of children. They have their experience and key skills for example, patience, organization and flexibility to name a few. Many can communicate effectively with children, parents and the community.

As early childhood education develops, governing bodies and lawmakers are working to expand and improve the quality of many early childhood settings. It is, in part, up to the educators already in the field to see that they are ready for change.

This change will bring them from the world of teaching to that of leadership. Instead of just leading children these educators will now have to lead teachers and staff. There are several important qualities that will make these educators successful leaders.


By Samuel Armstrong, Principal of rainbowtrekekrs Widdersdorf


What is vision? Vision is a mental picture of the future. It is an idea of what the future can hold but has not yet happened. Vision guides us and creates a desire to grow and improve. Our vision embodies our hopes and ideals and gives us a sense of purpose. As a leader we will be tasked in dealing with two visions, the vision of rainbowtrekkers and our own personal leadership vision. Both of which will need to be aligned for us to succeed.

What happens when you lead a team with no vision? Everyone ends up working, and often working quite hard, but important goals are never achieved. A vision brings the team together under a common goal so that your team is not simply working but is working together to create something that moves you closer to realizing your leadership vision.

Leadership vision is a vivid, aspirational picture of the future of your institution. It is long-term and measurable. Your vision answers the question: Where are we going? We need to be clear in our definition of what that destination looks like, even if we do not yet know exactly how we are going to get there. This definition gives us and our team the ability to know exactly where we are located within the vision at any given time and whether we are getting closer to or further away from that destination.

In formulating our vision, we must have knowledge in four main areas. Firstly, we must understand the values here at rainbowtrekkers. Only when we fully embrace these values can we begin to formulate our own vision for our institution. Secondly, we must understand and believe in our curriculum. Just like our values these are part of the core of what makes rainbowtrekkers special. Thirdly, we must have a current knowledge and understanding of childhood development in the ages zero to six. This is our demographic and our vision must be tailored to these ages. Finally, in developing our vision we must be aware of the needs to of the families in our institutions. We must take this into consideration and strive to meet their needs and expectations.

With a vision set in place, we must then strategize its delivery. Think of strategy as the road in which we take to get to our leadership vision. It is imperative that we plan our journey, considering both good times as well as possible road blocks. Our strategy should be time sensitive and must set clear time frames. We must be able to measure our progress in order for us to know that we are getting somewhere. It may go without saying but we must be able to clearly communicate our vision with our team and families. Clear and open lines of communication are what are going to help to instil this vision in our team and help to understand our families better. We must as leaders be open to feedback from both team and families and remember that this feedback is crucial in the development of our strategies of how reach vision.

Our team will need structure and a plan to execute our leadership vision. Having structure and protocol are what helps your team daily. We count on our team to use their expertise and energy every day to help us reach our vision. Therefore, having small achievable goals and making sure they are met are key to motivating a team day in and day out. It is important that these small daily goals are a win for our team. These small achievements are what help bring us closer to our destination.

Our leadership vision is what drives the actions of our team, and although internal and external factors may force you to adjust your strategy and plans, the mission should remain unchanged. Define a clear leadership vision that you and your team can enthusiastically support. Then communicate it and continuously demonstrate your own commitment to your vision. Think strategically about the factors that drive out institution or team and develop a strategic plan that is realistic, unbiased, and influenced by multiple perspectives.

In conclusion as leaders we must, define and communicate a vision that creates a picture of the future which connects and motivates others to action. Set Strategies that see the big picture of future and create connections that will lead to positive outcomes. Finally plan by formulating objectives and priorities, then implement and monitor plans on the road to our vision.


Our vision answers our question of where we are going. Our job with that clear leadership vision set in place is to motivate our teams to get us there. Through motivation a leader can channel energy and potential, but how do we motivate our team?

A goal for any member of a team is to feel appreciated and valued. These characteristics instil a sense of commitment and engagement to your role in the team. When individuals and teams work above and beyond expectations to achieve great results, celebration and recognition are how you encourage continued commitment to the vision, mission, and goals. It is how excellence is encouraged over time, and how it stays strong even in the hard and stressful times. What gets rewarded gets repeated and simple recognition can go a long way to help motivate your team.

Communication is a powerful tool that leadership can use to create an environment that brings forth employee motivation. Communication provides information, makes employees feel important and recognized, and provides the glue that binds a team with their leadership and their organization. Transparent communication of goals, results, and improving service is imperative if you want employees to bring their hearts and spirit to work. Communicate with transparency, authenticity, and clarity. Whether you have a scheduled morning meeting each day, make group visits or take lunch with your team, make it a priority to make time to talk to each member of your team on a regular basis. You may be busy, but, the truth of the matter is that you really can’t afford not to communicate frequently with your team.

Leaders must show an interest in their team role and career aspirations to motivate them the right way. Once that’s been established, they look to the future to create learning and development opportunities for their team. We must find out what motivates our team individually by getting to know what desires will drive each team member. This is about emotional engagement. We must as leaders allow our team member to bring their own strengths and skills to the team. This ownership of process not only motivates the individual but can also strengthens and supports the team. We must nurture this ownership and give people a chance to shine and be themselves. Knowing your team’s strengths and passions can go a long way in creating a team that works more effectively together. Encourage your team to look at what makes them happy or drives them in your institution and then give them the freedom to pursue it. Encouraging autonomy and creativity in return can help you lighten your load as a leader. When you know your team and their individual strengths we are then able to delegate.

Delegation not only helps us as leaders with our workload but also helps to develop trust. When it comes to motivation it goes hand in hand with trust. When trust is lacking, so is happiness, and when team lack enthusiasm about their jobs, their work suffers. Trust is not something that comes with the title as leader it is something that is earned. When our employees trust us, and they perceive that what we are doing is honestly in their best interest, we are more likely to have an engaged team. We can earn this trust in many ways for example, leading by example, sharing knowledge, open communication, transparency … the list goes on, but just remember trust is something that comes with time and is not going to happen overnight. Remember trust goes both ways. Showing that you have trust and faith in your employees’ abilities, decision-making skills and judgment is a great way to open them up to trusting you. Leadership is not only about being a great leader, it’s about helping your team become the best that can be. Ultimately, your success reflects theirs.


Effective leadership in kindergarten setting requires knowing how to communicate with all elements of the organization, including team, management, students and parents. Each group may require a different communication style. Leaders must be able to adapt based on the group they are communicating with at the time. Effective communication skills are an important aspect of any leader’s portfolio of skills and experience.

Verbal communication is the most obvious form of communication. However, research has shown people pay much less attention to the words that are said and much more attention to the actions and nonverbal cues that accompany those words. Nonverbal cues include facial expressions, use of hand motions, body posture and eye movements. Leaders should strive to always match their nonverbal cues to their words; when they do so, they are more believable and trustworthy.

A good leader adapts their communication style depending on their audience. When speaking to team members, we may need to have a much more directive style than when we are delivering a presentation at a parent evening or parents at drop-off or pick-up. Leaders should identify the audience and their characteristics and interests, then adjust their communication style based on what the audience needs and what will encourage them to react to meet the goals of the communication. Throughout the course of a day, the leader may have to switch between an authoritative or inspiring style with the team and an empathetic style with parents.

An important aspect of communication is the ability to listen. Active listening should always be a goal, with the leader focusing on both the verbal and nonverbal language of the speaker. Active listening involves concentrating only on the speaker and ignoring outside interruptions, including the listener’s own wandering thoughts or possible responses. Active listeners also refrain from interrupting, give the speaker time to finish, show they are listening by doing things like nodding or smiling, and reflect or paraphrase back to verify their understanding.

Leaders should realize the team will look to them as a model of how they should behave under certain circumstances. A team tend to emulate how they see leaders acting and communicating. If employees see a leader using an active listening style and empathetic tone with parents, they are more likely to do the same. When leaders are open to the ideas of others and praise often, the team will tend to follow suit.


“Empathy is a universal team value that promotes high commitment and cooperation in the workplace”- Dianne Crampton, Gonzaga University

Empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions and experiences of others. Simply empathy is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes and be aware of their feelings and understand their needs.

One of the struggles that a lots of kindergartens face is retaining talented staff. One of the most common cited reasons for people leaving an organization is lack of trust and appreciation from those they report to. Empathy increases trust, a sense that team members are valued and cared about. Whether in our personal relationships or part of an organization, we will be more likely to stay when we feel like we are heard, appreciated and cared about.

In terms of team engagement, it is known that when a leader demonstrates to their team that they care, the mutuality reaction kicks in and they want to put in more effort. As leaders we should continuously look for ways to notice, feedback, and find ways to show appreciation to our team. When empathy is demonstrated at the top, it is passed down throughout the team, resulting in an increase in teamwork, a decrease in staff conflict, and a decrease in workplace disruption. This collaboration will result in better coordinated work effort and team work.

Empathy can have a lot to do with absenteeism and sickness. A team that feel seen, heard, and appreciated feel more satisfied with their work and as a result miss fewer days on the job. As the level of job satisfaction increases, so does the level of absenteeism. Staff who feel less committed to the organization will feel less motivated to come to work. A lot of times the rational is that since nobody cares, so why should they? Increased absenteeism decreases morale as teammates who must pick up the slack become resentful. This can create a downward spiral in terms of the team morale and absenteeism rates.

People who perceive they are part of a team and feel hear and appreciated tend to risk more and look for ways to bring more of themselves to a team. We want our team to put time and energies into coming up with new ideas, processes, and methods to improve their daily work and move the institution forward. Commitment to the institution and is vision makes our team feel that their success and that of the organization are interrelated.


Creativity is one of the most important qualities of a modern leader. Creativity itself is the abandonment of rigid structures, a very desirable trait for individuals in leadership positions to have in an educational setting. Creative leaders can look at things in new ways and solve problems by seeing things others don’t. When you hear the word creativity you think of words like inventiveness, imagination, innovation, vision, progressiveness, originality, and resourcefulness just to name a few. All of these are characteristics of successful creative leaders who are currently changing our world today, but how does this translate to the field of education.

The role of creativity in leadership is vital to any organization’s survival in the ever-changing educational and cultural climate that exists today. There are many advantages to creative leadership within organizations, including; Problem solving, goal setting, mentoring and collaboration in the workplace and even the possibility of finding perspectives within the education.

Creative leadership helps organizations by opening new opportunities for problem solving and growth within our teams. With our wonderfully diverse staff we can take new perspectives on problems from a creative approach that can lead to new and perhaps previously unknown or unheard-of solutions. We are so lucky to have this wealth of knowledge and diversity, it is up to us as leaders to bring this out in our teams and our daily work. We as leaders need to be open to doing things a new or slightly different way than we are used to if we want our teams to grow.

When leaders approach goals from a creative point of view, they gain the ability to reach goals more easily. A creative leader sees unique paths to reach these goals. Whether it is how to increase language development or expand creative offerings for our students, the creative leader can map out a path to reach new levels of success. A creative leader will be able to reflect critically on daily practice and then with their team develop a plan of shared ideas and practices to reach their goal.

As team begins to grow and our processes change over time, some staff can often feel ostracized or forgotten. Creative leadership presents several opportunities to remedy this mindset by implementing non-traditional techniques and ideas to include people and teams into the company’s success. A creative leader might suggest having all employees brainstorm ideas from their point of view, instead of taking ideas from the leadership standpoint. Employees don’t always have the same information as management, so seeing problems or innovating ideas from within could lead to new or profound ideas to help form solutions to problems.

In order to thrive, a team or organization must grow, adapt, and create its own path to success. Creative leaders must sometimes embrace unlikely and unpopular viewpoints. Unlikely or unpopular perspectives can often allow for new and exciting avenues to be revealed, which can be used to devise new and exciting changes to help a team or kindergarten thrive and grow. This is not always successful and sometimes ideas fail or just don’t take off, but it’s the ability to try and reflect on these decisions which help a team to grow together. We can often only adapt from the mistakes we make

Creativity creates many enticing opportunities for both the leader and the team in the workplace. As a team expands, leaders often spend more time on managing the business side of things and can miss out on chances to be a creative leader to their team. So how can I become a more creative leader in a busy, thriving workplace?

  • Continue to educate yourself. Continued learning is one of the most effective steps to take toward becoming a creative leader. Educational resources range from single articles to full-blown courses for individuals in leadership or educational positions that teach strategies for being more creative.
  • Leaders should also look to other individuals with experience when learning about leadership and management. Employees and other individuals in similar positions are fantastic resources for learning how to be a better and more creative leader. Being a good role model will also help encourage your team to continue educating themselves be it in self-study or Fortbildung.
  • Rely on your team and allow them to grow. A team can be an extension of its creative leader by providing their ideas and insights into day-to-day decision making and problem solving. Providing autonomy and some decision-making power to a team allows their creative leadership skills to thrive. By relying on their team, a creative leader has more time and energy to focus on the bigger picture goals and ideas.
  • Take scheduled time to be creative. Every creative leader or creative team needs time to clear their mind, reflect, and be creative. It is important to focus on big-picture ideas and reflect on what put them there in the first place: their creative vision. Often, we can find our group or team meetings getting caught up in day to day business. We tend to focus on what we must do rather than reflecting on what we have done. Make sure to schedule regular team meetings that are free of agenda and lists. Let your team have time to just think and reflect and see if you are living your vision.
  • Don’t forget to have fun! Having fun with your team and peers creates an open, unstructured atmosphere that can spark creativity. Relaxing and enjoying activities with like-minded individuals leads to energized conversations and open-forum brainstorming. Communicating in an unstructured environment outside of the workplace gets your mind off the daily grind and can lead to higher productivity with employees and peers. The creative vibe and energy that shines from a creative leader inspires the people around him or her.

Creativity is one of the most important characteristics of an effective leader and fosters a successful and healthy workplace environment. Creativity opens up opportunities in problem-solving, achieving goals, and inspiring teams to be creative and find unlikely perspectives. Implementing creative leadership-building strategies, such as continuing education, relying on trusted teammates, developing thought leadership, reflection, taking scheduled time out to develop creativity skills, leaning on mentors, and just having fun with peers, are essential in the journey to becoming a successful creative leader in a thriving team.


Employees who possess a strong sense of accountability go above and beyond the minimum and focus their work effort on the activities that have the highest return in order to make a meaningful contribution to a team’s success. Organizations need people who take it upon themselves to honour the commitments they make to others, whether day-to-day or in challenging circumstances. It involves taking risks by confronting and holding others responsible for commitments, addressing situations with courage and sometimes making a personal sacrifice for the organisation’s benefit.

As leaders we must create culture of accountability. In order to provide a constructive work environment, leaders should provide a climate where their team is absorbed in their work or as we have mentioned before have “ownership of process”, where they feel involved in broader decision making and where they feel compelled to honour the commitments made to others. A team that can develop this climate can then also create conditions that foster accountability including; clarity, linking team members to results and knowledge of results and feedback, all of which move their culture from “just another day in Kita” to meaningful, sustained progress.

It is important that a leader models this accountability. While everyone is accountable for their own performance, management plays a significant role in modelling positive behaviours in the workforce and therefore must improve their own accountability before increased accountability can occur amongst their teams. Once we are aware of our own accountability, leaders can actively encourage accountability amongst their peers by employing different actions to help team members achieve their potential.

  1. Establishing clear and well-aligned organisational and individual goals
  2. Admitting mistakes in ways that protect credibility, advance problem solving and help peers to the right result
  3. Ensuring employees get the resources and skills needed for success
  4. Address differences and bring your team together on how goals will be achieved
  5. Resolving dilemmas that cause both kindergarten and team related issues
  6. Developing capabilities to effectively provide positive and constructive feedback
  7. Increasing employees’ comfort with handling conflict and providing feedback
  8. Coach others in how to be accountable to achieve results


It is imperative that we provide training and resources. Offering the necessary training and resources for employees is important in equipping them with the right skills and support to improve accountability and build the high accountability culture that drives organisational performance. Therefore, management and leaders cannot overlook their own responsibility in providing further training to enable their staff to effectively carry out their duties. Part of this responsibility is proactively creating an environment where employees feel comfortable in asking for training and additional resources, and then providing the on-demand, on-the-job and lecture-based learning as well as coaching support to give them what they need. Education never ends and we must hold ourselves and team accountable to further education and development.

Leaders must demonstrate greater accountability in creating a climate where educators fully understand their roles and responsibilities, not just specific to their positions, but also the broader kindergarten operations so that they are energised to go above the call of duty and make a meaningful contribution to the team and organisation.

Change management

Successful change is one of biggest problems that most organizations face. Whether is it implementing a companywide decision or dealing with an unexpected change we know that effective leadership is essential to successful change. But what makes up this effective change-management leadership.

Most of the time this comes back to communication. If we tend to focus on the “what” we are leading ourselves down the path of failure. If we can focus on both the “what” and the “why” then we are taking the path to a better more clear and open communication.  Leaders who explained the purpose of the change and connected it to the organization’s values or explained the benefits created a stronger buy-in and urgency for the change.

We cannot execute any of these changes alone. Bringing people together to plan and execute change is critical. Successful leaders worked across boundaries, including management, team members and parents. They also included some if not all these groups in decision-making early on, strengthening their commitment to change.

Successful leaders make sure their own beliefs and behaviours supported change, too. Change is difficult, but leaders who negotiate it successfully are resilient and persistent, and willing to step outside their comfort zone. They also give more of their own time to the change effort and focused on the big picture.

Strategic change doesn’t happen on its own. Effective leaders guide the process from start to finish. Effective change leaders begin by making the case for the change they seek. This can include evaluating the context, understanding the purpose of the change, developing a clear vision and desired outcome, and identifying a common goal. Leaders must develop a strategy and a clear action plan, including priorities, timelines, tasks, structures, behaviours, and resources. It is important to identify what will change, but also what will stay the same. Translating strategy into execution is one of the most important things leaders can do.

It is important to break big projects down into small wins to get early victories and build momentum. Where we can get into trouble as leaders is, we sometimes begin micromanaging, get caught up in implementation details, and fail to consider the bigger picture. Stick to your plan and trust your team.

While formal change processes might be well understood, too many leaders including myself have often neglected the all-important human side of change. The most effective leaders devoted considerable effort to engaging everyone involved in the change effort. Successful change projects were characterized by leaders removing barriers to success. These include personal barriers such as wounded egos and a sense of loss, as well as professional barriers such as the time and resources necessary to carry out a change plan. Don’t get caught up in the result! Effective leaders identified key shareholders — including management, team members, students and parents — and communicated their vision of successful change to them. It is highly unlikely you will be successful in achieving your results if you are avoiding one of these shareholders rather than including them.

Finally, successful change leaders must acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers. Ask lots of questions and gather formal and informal feedback. This input and feedback allow you to make continual adjustments and will help you to implement any change you might encounter.

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