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Leading and Managing Your Nursery - 7 Effective Ways to Improve Your Early Years Leadership Skills

May 25, 2021
8 minute read

As you progress through your career in early years, you may find yourself experiencing a range of roles which offer elements of leadership. Perhaps you have been a room leader, or maybe you manage the health and safety within the setting. Maybe you have been the leader of a particular project, or possibly you are a deputy manager ready for that next move into nursery management. Knowing how to effectively and efficiently lead and manage a team of early years practitioners is essential in your growth, and will be central to achieving your career goals. Whatever position you are at, developing your leadership skills is crucial to advancing your career.

In this blog, we will identify why leadership skills are so important in early years, and explore the ways in which you can develop these skills to become a more confident and successful nursery manager and early years leader.

The Importance of leadership skills.

Most of us have experienced poor leadership in one way or another. We have felt the wrath of the ‘I know better than you do’ boss, and the frustration of the manager who just doesn’t give a damn. There’s those who are unreliable and who you know you can't trust, and then there are the managers who use their power and status rather than their knowledge and skills to get things done. But these experiences of poor leadership are by no means wasted. Use these experiences to shape your own leadership, acknowledging how poor leadership makes you feel, behave and impacts your work….a tick list of what not to do!

No matter what your current position is in your setting, there will be opportunities for you to develop and practice your leadership skills. Whether you lead a large team, lead a room, or have no responsibility for colleagues at all, you can start to work on your leadership skills today, making you more efficient, productive and demonstrating your readiness for that next leadership role when it becomes available.

Leadership skills not only contribute to the success of your setting and therefore outcomes for families and children, but they also encourage others to step up their leadership game too.

So how can you improve your leadership skills in early years?

1. Understand your personal leadership style

We all have our own way of leading, and knowing how we lead can help us to understand how we can improve. The most common leadership styles are as follows:

· Democratic Leadership

· Autocratic Leadership

· Laissez-Faire Leadership

· Strategic Leadership

· Transformational Leadership

· Transactional Leadership

· Coach-Style Leadership

· Bureaucratic Leadership

There are a range of online quizzes which will hep you to identify your leadership style. By knowing your innate and natural way of leading, you will be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses associated with that style and work on the areas of weakness to improve your skills as a leader. What’s more, as you grow as a leader, you will recognise that leadership is less about your style, and more about adapting the leadership style to suit the needs of the person or team you are leading. For example, you may determine that you are a Laissez-faire leader; hands off, allowing others to make decisions and delegating tasks to team members. That approach will work well with an established and confident team. But if you were to manage a team of new practitioners in a setting that had just been given an inadequate Ofsted rating, laissez-fayre just won’t cut it, a more directive leadership style would be required

2. Develop a routine and be disciplined

To be an effective leader, you have to be disciplined and have a routine that works for you and your team. One major part of leadership is modelling the behaviour you want to see, so having a well-organised approach to your work will set clear expectations to your team. If you are late for meetings, unorganised and missing deadlines, what message does this send to the people you are leading?

Personal discipline is important too and will help you to practice this skill further. Getting enough sleep, eating healthily and exercising regularly are all habits of a well organised leader. Making time for your family and friends rather than working every evening, will demonstrate how disciplined your leadership is.

3. Work with a mentor

Leading and managing a nursery or early years setting is no easy task and one which we often don’t have a great deal of support or training in. Working with a leadership mentor can improve your leadership skills immensely, even if you’re not in a full leadership role. For example, a deputy manager can reap huge rewards from working with a leadership mentor, developing the skills and confidence they will need to demonstrate when that next nursery manager role becomes available. Working with a mentor can provide you with an insight into your leadership, opportunities to reflect on your personal strengths and weaknesses and to consider the ways in which you have managed situations and how you might improve them next time. A mentor has often been where you are and will have the skills to support you, but with a challenging and reflective approach.

Find out more about the leadership mentoring we offer at The Key Leadership.

4. Ask for more responsibility.

If you are eager to test your leadership skills and keen to take on more responsibility, ask for it! Speak to your line manager and ask for some extra responsibility in the setting. Perhaps you are a manager, wanting to prepare yourself for an area manager role, ask your area manager for some extra responsibility. Believe me, they will jump at the chance to delegate some of their workload. Or perhaps you are a practitioner ready to move into a room leader or senior role. Ask your manager what you can do to learn more and take on some extra duties that will support your career development.

5. Further develop your knowledge.

No matter what position you get to in your career in early years, continuous professional development (CPD) is essential. Every day should be a school day and developing your knowledge will make you a more skilled and knowledgeable leader. Leading a nursery or early years team is so much easier when the team trusts your knowledge, when they know they can come to you for information and guidance. You cannot achieve this if you don’t continue your own learning and development. There are a range of courses available for leaders in the early years sector, from full time degree courses, part time leadership or online personal development. Find the course and delivery type that suits your needs and go for it. Share your desire to learn more with your line manager and ask for their support. There are several available leadership courses or classes, and many are offered online.

Why not check out www.premierearlyyearstraining.co.uk and see what courses are on offer.

6. Learn to motivate and inspire others

Effective leadership in early years is about bringing others along on the journey with you, and to do this effectively you should have the ability to empower, inspire and motivate your team to work towards a common goal. Think about the ways in which you motivate and inspire others, perhaps in hobbies or in your personal life, and use these skills in your leadership role or even to motivate your peers and colleagues. Delegate tasks to your team to show them just how much trust you have in them and inspire them to be the best they can be, you will be amazed at what people can do if you give them the tools, the opportunity and the confidence to do so.

7. Learn from your mistakes

We all make mistakes, even the most skilled and experienced leaders will mess up sometimes. It’s not the mistakes that matter, but how you handle mistakes, that shows what kind of leader you are. Being confident and prepared to admit your mistakes and put them right is an important leadership trait. With every mistake you make, find the lesson and learn from it so that you don’t make that mistake again. Not only will you improve your leadership skills but you will show your team that learning from your mistakes leads to growth and development.

Leading and managing a nursery or early years setting is no easy task and leading a team of other, inspiring them along the way can be daunting. But by using these 7 ways to improve your leadership skills and by embracing your strength and weaknesses you can develop yourself into an amazing early years leader.

If you are looking for a mentor to help you along the way, a coach to support your development or perhaps bespoke leadership training for your team, please do get in touch and see how the Key Leadership can help support your leadership development.

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