“Leadership belongs to everyone.” (Sergiovanni, 1992, p.1)

What does leadership mean?

What could the above understanding of leadership be like within a team of teachers who are developing a change from a concept of a ‘leader who leads’, to a concept of ‘shared leadership’ where leadership belongs to everyone?

Some writers bring to our attention an emerging difference in the meaning of the words ‘leadership and leader’. Wendy Lee (2008, p.7) compares a more traditional view of leadership with recent developments:

Leadership was seen as a set of skills or traits that individuals either had or could acquire through training. But in more recent years, the concept of leadership has come to mean something rather different. Leadership is about groups, surfacing beliefs, values, information and assumptions; making sense of their work in the light of new information; generating ideas and acting on them. It is also about articulating what we do confidently and celebrating achievements.

She further extends these ideas, emphasising that leadership needs to be the responsibility of everyone in the group: “a shared endeavour, focusing on learning for constructive change.” (op.cit.)

Words like, energetic, passionate and inspirational, describe an atmosphere where team members become inspired to become involved.

[Leadership] involves an energy flow or synergy generated by those who choose to lead … It is this wave of energy and purpose that engages and pulls others into the work of leadership. (Lambert 1998, p.5)

Leadership in early childhood education

Taking a more specific look at the vision of shared leadership within the early childhood education sector Lee (2004, p.7) discusses educational leadership as:

Leadership that is concerned with increasing our knowledge of curriculum, teaching and learning (pedagogy) … A commitment to educational leadership involves:

  • Staying abreast of the latest research in practice
  • Researching our own practice
  • Experimenting with new approaches
  • Sharing our insights with others

Developing a culture of shared leadership that moves from a ‘leader’ who exhibits authority and power  ‘over’ a group of people or from the ‘top down’ to a culture of 'shared leadership' involves a shift of control from the leader to the group. Shared leadership is not a singular position, there has to be room for ‘others’ where success is valued along with mistake making. Intuitive thought fuels risk taking. Shared leadership allows for recovery and collective resolution to emerge and supports an atmosphere of reciprocal courage and trust.

Reflective questions

Robyn Lawrence (cited in Hatherly & Lee, 2004, p.92.) challenges us to critically consider the style of leadership that is alive and thriving in our centres by asking these questions:

  • Is this style of leadership empowering to all - teachers, children and families?
  • Does the leadership in your centre value reciprocal relationships?
  • Is leadership holistic?
  • Does the leadership result in a community of learners?

When we think of and act upon the opening quote "Leadership belongs to everyone" - then we will find ways to actively participate in the leadership community in our centre, just as for example Roskill South Kindergarten do.


Lambert, L. (1998). Building Leadership Capacity in Schools. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Hatherly, A. & Lee, W. (2004). Voices of early childhood leadership. New Zealand Journal of Educational Leadership, 18, 91-100.
Lee, W. (2008). What is leadership? In Centre Facilitators Handbook. ELP General Professional Development. Hamilton: Educational Leadership Project.
Sergiovanni, T.J. (1992). Moral Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Last updated: 4 March 2011