Dispositions of a responsible early childhood education leader: Voices from the field


Share / Export Citation / Email / Print / Text size:

Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice

New Zealand Educational Administration and Leadership Society

Subject: Education


ISSN: 1178-8690





Volume / Issue / page

Related articles

VOLUME 33 , ISSUE 1 (June 2018) > List of articles

Dispositions of a responsible early childhood education leader: Voices from the field

Gwen Davitt / Debbie Ryder

Keywords : Leadership; early childhood education; dispositions; responsibilities; professional learning

Citation Information : Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice. Volume 33, Issue 1, Pages 18-31, DOI: https://doi.org/10.21307/jelpp-2018-003

License : (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Published Online: 02-April-2019



In our organisation's research project, “Leaders Growing Leaders” (Ryder, Davitt, Higginson, Smorti, Smith & CarrollLind, 2017), which investigated effective ECE leadership in Aotearoa/New Zealand, leadership dispositions were identified as one means of making sense of the complexities of leadership within early childhood education. The New Zealand early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa. Early Childhood Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2017) highlights the importance of kaiako (teacher) responsibilities. Similarly, this article argues that the six specific leadership dispositions of an early childhood education leader, identified in our research, can act as a framework to explore leadership responsibilities. Participant voices are drawn on to exemplify and articulate the specific leadership dispositions of being: a communicator; relationship focused; caring and supportive; and a leader of growth and change, whilst also acting as a critical friend. We argue that responsible leadership must be purposefully grown, developed and sustained across the culture of the ECE setting. Underpinning this understanding is the need for dedicated leadership professional development that supports emerging and current leaders, and their teams, to engage in robust collegial dialogue and reflective practice in terms of what it means to be a responsible leader.

Content not available PDF Share



Aubrey, C. (2011). Leading and managing in the early years. London: Sage.

Aubrey. C., Godfrey, R., & Harris, A. (2013). How do they manage? An investigation of early childhood leadership. Educational Management, Administration and Leadership, 41(5), 5–29.

Bolstad, R., & Gilbert, J., with McDowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R. (2012). Supporting futureoriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand perspective. Wellington: NZCER Press.

Bowman. R.F. (2014). Learning leadership skills in elementary school. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 50(3), 119–123.

Corden, A., & Sainsbury, R. (2006). Exploring ‘quality’: Research participants’ perspectives on verbatim quotations. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 9(2), 97–110.

Davis, K., Krieg, S., & Smith, K. (2014). Leading otherwise: Using a feminist-poststructuralist and postcolonial lens to create alternative spaces for early childhood educational leaders. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 18(2), 131–148.

Denee, R., & Thornton, K. (2017). Effective leadership practices leading to distributed leadership. Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice, 32(7), 33–45.

Dunbar, D. (2016). Widening the discussion on HE leadership – leader dispositions and talents.

Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 20(4), 129–136.

Education Review Office (2011). Evaluation at glance: What ERO knows about effective schools. Wellington: Education Review Office.

Flumerfelt. F., Ingram, I., Brockberg, K., & Smith, J. (2007). A study of higher education student achievement based on transformative and lifelong learning processes. Mentoring and Tutoring, 15(1), 107–118.

Hujala, E., Waniganayake, M., & Rodd, J. (2013).Cross national contexts of early childhood leadership. In E. Hujala, M. Waniganayake, & J. Rodd (Eds.), Researching leadership in early childhood education (pp. 13–30). Tampere: Tampere University Press.

Mead, H.M. (2016). Tikanga Māori: Living by Māori values. Wellington: Huia.

Ministry of Education. (1996). Te whāriki: He whāriki matauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa. Early childhood curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media.

Ministry of Education. (2017). Te whāriki: He whāriki matauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa. Early childhood curriculum. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). (2002). Professional standards for the accreditation of schools, colleges, and departments of education. Washington, DC: NCATE.

Notman, R. (2015). Seismic leadership, hope and resiliency: Stories of two Christchurch schools postearthquake. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 14(4), 437–459.

Notman, R. (2017). Holistic leadership in a high needs early childhood centre. In R. McNae, M. Morrison, & R. Notman (Eds.), Educational leadership in Aotearoa New Zealand: Issues of context and social justice (pp.130–143). Wellington: NZCER Press.

Notman, R., Morrison, M., & McNae, R. (2017). Introduction: Leading for social justice and high needs in education. In R. McNae, M. Morrison, & R. Notman (Eds.), Educational leadership in Aotearoa New Zealand: Issues of context and social justice (pp. 1–14). Wellington: NZCER Press.

O’Neill, J., Hansen, S., & Lewis, E. (2014). Dispositions to teach: Review and synthesis of current components and applications and evidence of impact. Report to the Schooling Policy Group, Ministry of Education, Wellington: Manawatū, Massey University.

Robertson, J. (2016). Coaching leadership: Building educational leadership capacity through partnership. (2nd edn.). Wellington: NZCER Press.

Ryder, D., Davitt, G., Higginson. R., Smorti, S., Smith, M., & Carroll-Lind, J. (2017). Poutoko whakatipu poutoko: Whakamanahia ngā poutoko kōhungahunga hei hautūtanga toitū. Leaders growing leaders: Effective early childhood leaders for sustainable leadership. Wellington: Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand.

Sims, M., Forrest, R., Semann, A., & Slattery, C. (2015). Conceptions of early childhood leadership: Driving new professionalism? International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice, 18(2), 149–166.

Stevenson, A., & Waite, M. (Eds.). (2011). Concise Oxford English dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thornton, K., Wansbrough, D., Clarkin-Phillips, J., Aitken, H., & Tamati, A. (2009). Conceptualising leadership in early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand. Occasional paper, 2. Wellington: New Zealand Teachers Council.

Williams, N. M., with Broadley, M. (2012). Resource kit for graduate teachers [Leaflets]. Retrieved from http:// akoaotearoa.ac.nz/download/ng/file/group-3993/resource-kit-for-graduate-teachers.pdf