Being a successful leader takes time and commitment. Leaders need to learn the ropes and be on top of their game in order to motivate and inspire their team. But being a successful nursery leader brings with it a whole host of different challenges.
As a nursery leader you are not just leading a team, you are leading a team who is responsible for helping to bring up our next generation and you only have one shot at it so you have to get it right!
Leadership isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. I know, because I have spent years trying to perfect it and can honestly say I am still learning. Just as I think I have the ‘perfect’ team, someone goes on maternity leave and I have to go back to the drawing board again! Just as my team have got to grips with one set of Standards, Ofsted, in their infinite wisdom, decide to update them and, just as we have settled the most introverted child into the toddler room, his parents announce they are moving out of the area!
Challenges occur daily and the nursery leader must rise to these challenges and perfect the impossible to ensure the smooth running of the setting.
The outstanding nursery leader will need to wear many hats throughout the course of the day as I have explained in my book How To Be An Outstanding Nursery Leader.
- Role model
Knowing when to wear each hat can be a challenge in itself. You might find yourself wanting to play the role of friend when a member of staff telephones in tears to say she will be late in for the third time this week because she has slept in and, despite her obvious despair, you know you need to put on your boss hat and tell her to get her act together and buy an alarm clock like everyone else! Sometimes a nursery manager has to say things that staff don’t want to hear and it won’t make you popular. However it will, if done correctly, gain you respect.
Respect, well what can I say? A small word with huge definition! Respect has to be learned, it cannot be commanded. However, earning respect takes time and patience. You will need to prove yourself to your team; you will need to give them confidence in your abilities and show them that you are in it for the long haul. Your commitment, drive, passion and enthusiasm must be apparent all day every day and, when staff are feeling demotivated and downhearted, you will be the one to bring them back to life!
But being a manager isn’t all about long hours, enormous pressure, worry and the constant fear of an Ofsted inspection, there are some good points as well. What are these I hear you ask? Well there is pride when your team gets the outstanding recognition from Ofsted that you’ve all been working so hard for. There is camaraderie – the mutual trust and friendship brought about by a team that spends a lot of time together and supporting each other. There is passion for the job well done and most importantly, there is the love in every little face that looks to you for reassurance and support – staff and children alike!!
Having spent such a long time in the early years sector, I am now finding myself enrolling the children of the children I used to care for decades ago and, although this makes me feel very old, it also makes me feel enormously lucky to have been such a valued part of each child’s family that has crossed my path and for that I can place no value, it has simply been and continues to be an enormous pleasure. This is a not a privilege afforded to many!
Allison Lee owns three day nurseries and a training centre, and her latest book, How to be an Outstanding Nursery Leader, is out now.