Early Childhood Leadership Tips

By Jane Ann Benson

early childhood leadership main image.png

Leadership Tips for Early Childhood Educators


As a leader in the field of Early Childhood for the past 35 years I have gathered strategies and tips that I found helpful in a variety of situations. Being a leader can be lonely and finding tips and tricks for an early childhood leader is challenging. As I mentored new leaders, I found these nuggets of wisdom to be helpful to offer them as they navigated their roles.


Here are 8 tips curated for everyday challenges with real life examples.


Early Childhood Leadership Tips 


Blog Listing Number 1Do you have a critical friend?


I read a Tom Brady interview where he talked about how necessary it is to have a critical friend. A friend who gives you the hard truth when you ask for it.


I couldn’t agree more. Although it is often hard to hear, we grow the most when a friend gives us tough feedback.


I find that a friend can offer feedback with a dose of kindness which helps take away a bit of the sting.


Do you have someone in your network who can cut to the chase and tell you what you might not want to hear AND still have your best interests at heart?


Blog Listing Number 2Do you have a LIVE IT LIST?


This isn’t a bucket list, an idea I was so-so on, but a list of how I wanted to live, what adventures did I want? Who did I want to share them with?


There are no rules. For some of us this is hard to get past.


I think the biggest thing to not shortchange is the reflection part. For instance, my husband Herm and I checked two more states (Oklahoma and Kansas) off my quest to see all the states this fall. The foliage was gorgeous, and the communities were welcoming. Road trips are always on my “live it” list.


How do you want to live? Sometimes we get so busy checking off all the boxes we get distracted. As a leader it is essential you cultivate segments of your life that aren't tied to your work.


Blog Listing Number 3Straight forward FOCUS.


Be thoughtful about keeping your focus on where you are right now and where you want to be in the future.


We have all spent too much energy with our eyes on the rearview mirror at some stage of our career. It’s important to learn from our experiences AND not get stuck there.


We need to start each day by not carrying the weight of the day before with us.


Activity-Page-Number4b.pngSay NO to something good!


This is something I didn’t learn until just a handful of years ago. I know…. slow learner!


Sometimes even when something is an AWESOME opportunity, we need to say NO. I fooled myself into thinking that if I didn’t say YES I wouldn’t get another chance. I even knew this was a scarcity mindset but couldn’t shake the feeling that some of these were once in a lifetime experience.


Truth be told some of them were darn good, but I don’t regret saying no. The timing wasn’t right for one reason or another. Once we say NO even when it’s a great opportunity, we get more focused on what we REALLY want/need to say YES to. When I said NO to being on an important steering committee in my community it allowed me to say yes to being more focused on goals that moved us closer to our dream early childhood center. Other times NO allowed me to spend more time with my family. Something I never regret.


I think we have all said yes when we meant no but next time you're saying yes, really think about if it is the right time?


Activity-Page-Number5.pngI believe in the Power of YET!


A helpful strategy can be the “power of yet”.


“I haven’t been able to do that YET”.


“I am not sure how to do that YET”.


Reminding ourselves that just because it isn’t happening currently doesn’t mean it won’t.


Keep the power of YET in your toolbox.

Activity-Page-Number6.pngNormalize Failure.


The conversation around having children experience failure is an important one. To not have their child upset or frustrated, sometimes families avoid situations when their child might fail. Sharing our failures with children can be helpful to draw from when they struggle with an experience. Highlighting this with families in newsletters and daily communication can be impactful.


This is also true with teachers, caregivers, and administrators. When we are vulnerable enough to share our stories when we aren't perfect, we are creating a culture of growth. We can stretch if we know perfection is not the goal.


That if we “fail” we are still “good” in our role.



Are you holding on to grudges?


Be mindful of grudges you might be holding on to and acknowledge the time and energy it wastes.


It’s my belief that refocusing our energy on what matters to us makes a bigger impact! As leaders, a grudge is a distraction.


Activity-Page-Number8.pngNot very glamorous!


Not easy but important, “do the boring work”. I know it seems so simple, but we sometimes avoid the work that is “the grind”. It is almost always the work nobody sees. For me that almost always included writing grant reports and budget analysis.


After many years in the field, I can confidently say it matters. I often say it builds muscles. The boring work helps to make us strong. It helps move us closer to meeting our goals.


Schedule it as part of your week! I schedule it first thing in my day when I am fresh and positive.


I hope that these tips will be added to your toolkit. Having tips and tricks can support us in our roles. I encourage you to gather quotes and tips that you can lean into when you need them. Store them in your planner, journal or electronically so they are easy to access and use. Each week on Tuesday I share a tip on my Early Childhood Ally Instagram feed. I would love to have you check it out.


What are your early childhood leadership tips?


Jane Ann Benson Early Childhood Ally JaneAnn Benson founder of Early Childhood Ally has been in the field for almost 40 years as a teacher, coach, mentor and director.

She spent the past 20 years at Grand Rapids Community College leading and directing the Early Childhood Learning Laboratory, an accredited, star rated program in the heart of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Over the past year she transitioned to semi-retirement and remains as a coach and mentor with the Play and Learn project.

As a longtime advocate of all issues impacting the field of early childhood she has more time to devote to her passion. Check out Early Childhood Ally on Instagram, signing up for the monthly newsletter and visiting her website at www.Earlychildhoodally.org where she is eager to hear more about your needs and connecting!