Horizontal Violence in Early Childhood Education and Care: Implications for Leadership Enactment

Article excerpt

The notion of leadership has been defined by numerous authors and there has been considerable work in this area over the past century, yet the picture remains incomplete. Terms related to leadership include individual traits, influence over people, role relationships and situational characteristics. Other related factors include meeting people's needs, mobilising power, negotiating agreements and political actions. According to Macbeath (2004), the term is 'full of ambiguity and has a range of interpretations. It is a "humpty-dumpty" word that can mean "just what we want it to be'" (from Humpty Dumpty, in Alice in Wonderland) (p. 4). Management and leadership are interrelated concepts and a clear separation is not necessarily possible or desirable, particularly in early childhood education and care (ECEC). According to Jorde Bloom (2003), management involves systems to attain a vision, while leadership goes beyond to create ideas and motivate people. Management positions often do incorporate some leadership, and most often leadership involves management duties. Perhaps the essence of the term leadership revolves around the notion of creating positive change in organisations. This paper explores the relationship between the notion of leadership in ECEC and factors identified as internal to the field which inhibit leadership enactment.

Literature review

Three schools of thought have traditionally dominated leadership literature; and these include individual traits, behaviours of leaders, and the context of the leadership. Individual traits have often been characterised as self-confidence, dominating, achievement-orientated and social agreeableness. Trait theories see leaders as concerned with the big picture rather than process, and this approach is often associated with the 'great person' notion of leadership (Northcraft & Neale, 1994). According to Hill and Ragland (1995), leadership understandings have not progressed far from 'assuming that the tallest man would naturally be the best leader' (p. 9). Current literature suggests that consideration of traits should not be dismissed entirely, since the personality of the leader does make a difference (Lingard, Hayes, Mills & Christie, 2003). Leadership behaviours often polarise into either task-or production-orientated leaders or socio-emotional leadership. It seems that effective leaders demonstrate moderate levels of both behaviours, with subordinates more satisfied by leaders with high socio-emotional behaviours (Black & Porter, 2000). Leadership in context, and particularly the work by Fiedler (1967), suggests that flexibility in leadership behaviour from autocratic to participative depends on the context. For Fiedler (1967) there needed to be a match between the individual traits and their situation.

Contemporary leadership approaches have defined concepts of transformational and transactional leadership. Transformational leaders often exhibit a charismatic style, have vision, are risk-takers, and usually see themselves as agents of major change. According to Robbins, Millet and Waters-Marsh (2004) these leaders are able to arouse, excite and inspire their followers to achieve group goals. This approach has resonance with the 'great person' or 'great man' trait approach and has been influential in social perceptions of what defines leadership. Transactional leadership rewards workers for their achievements and is concerned about improving working conditions and benefits and providing more engaging working conditions. These leaders engage in shared decision-making and develop teams. Their success is somewhat dependent upon the followers' perceptions of the leader's ability (Schultz & Schultz, t998). This style is more pragmatic than that of the transformational leader but not exclusive, and both approaches make a contribution to leadership understandings.

The terms visionary leadership and charismatic leadership are now also part of contemporary leadership discussions. …