Nursery Management

What is Effective Leadership in Early Years Settings?

Ineffective management is estimated to be costing UK businesses over £19 billion in lost working hours per year, and 43% of managers rate their own manager as ineffective. But what is effective leadership? Vicky Stanton shares her tips…

Leadership is about setting the direction of a business. So do you have a clear vision of where you want your nursery to be at the end of the financial year? In three years? In five years? Have you shared this vision with your management team and the staff? Unless everyone is clear on the direction and feels a part of making it happen, it most likely won’t happen. You need the ‘buy in’ of everyone to achieve your vision. You need all of your management team to act as leaders in the workplace. They can engage with staff on a day-to-day basis, and help to inspire and motivate them to achieve your shared goals.

You need to regularly communicate how the journey is going to the team. Is the nursery on target to achieve its goals, or is some action needed to get there? Make sure that your message is clear so there is no chance it will be misunderstood by anyone.

Effective leadership is also about recognising the efforts of others. A simple “thank you” is often enough to make an individual feel valued and appreciated. Staff who feel they are appreciated tend to have much less short-term absence than those who feel put upon and less appreciated.

The flip side to this is that effective leaders also tackle problems at the earliest opportunity. Not dealing with situations as they arise can lead to them becoming more of an issue.

Key skills to consider

1. Communication. This is the key to being effective. If you know what you are doing and what needs to be done but can’t communicate it to the staff, then you’ll never be a good manager.

2. Listening. This sits hand in hand with communication. The only way you will find out what is going on is to really listen. Do you spend time with your staff talking to them and actually listening to what they are saying?

3. A commitment. to the truth Often managers get the sugar-coated version of what’s happening. The only way to get the truth is if you insist on it. Probe and ask questions if you think you are not getting the full picture.

4. Empathy. This is the softer side to listening and truth. You need to be able to show staff that you care where there is a genuine problem or issue. You need to be able to understand how people feel and why they feel that way.

5. Persuasion and influence. This is how you get staff to do what you need them to do without having to result to shouting or being directive. This is integral to managing as a leader.

6. Removing obstacles The ability to identify solutions to remove obstacles so that your staff can carry on with their jobs is critical.

7. Confidence. Effective managers also have the confidence to deal with matters as they arise. Conflict will always happen in the workplace and it is the manager’s role to confront it and seek a resolution.

There are, of course, lots of other practical skills that managers need to have in order to carry out the practical aspects of their role.

Final thoughts

Employees look to their managers and leaders to show direction, values and inspiration. Skills come through formal training but mostly through experience of doing the job and seeking feedback. Without strong leaders and managers in your nursery you will end up as part of the statistic I mentioned at the very beginning of this article.

Here are some wise words to end with:

“You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.” Henry Ford

“Before you are a leader it’s all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Jack Welch

Vicky Stanton is director of HR 4 Your Nursery, a professional HR consultancy working specifically with nursery and preschool owners and managers to take the challenge out of people management.