November 17, 2022

Love and Leadership in Early Childhood Education

By Nicolle Houser, Operation Systems Manager and Katie Moberg, Employee Experience Specialist

I don’t necessarily have to like my players and associates, but as the leader I must love them. Love is loyalty, love is teamwork, love respects the dignity of the individual. This is the strength of any organization”. – Vince Lombardi 

Creating a positive environment for the children in your classroom and among colleagues in your childcare center stems from one word: Love. Love in early childhood education (ECE) encourages a caring learning environment where children can be creative and fully express their talents. The same is true when applied to employee relationships and team morale. Love-based leadership, also known as servant leadership, seeks to identify the needs of others to support their growth and overall well-being. It focuses on the talents and strengths of individuals to promote happiness, well-being, and creativity. Leadership rooted in love and service yields increased employee engagement, productivity, and happiness.   

But how does one lead with love in the classroom? What does love-based leadership look like in practice?  

Good questions. 

To answer, we need to define the characteristics of servant leadership.  

Patience Showing Self-Control 
Kindness Giving Attention, Appreciation, and Encouragement 
Humility Being Authentic and Without Pretense or Arrogance 
Respectfulness Treating Others as Important People 
Selflessness Meeting the Needs of Others 
Forgiveness Giving Up Resentment when Wronged 
Honesty Being Free from Deception 
Commitment Sticking to Your Choices 
Results: Service and Sacrifice Setting Aside Your Own Wants and Needs; Seeking the Greatest Good for Others 

Servant leadership doesn’t only live outside of the classroom, but also inside the classroom on different levels. Lead teachers can be servant leaders by motivating their assistant teachers and children they serve. Assistant teachers can be servant leaders by motivating their peers, their lead teacher and the children they serve. Even children can be servant leaders by encouraging the children around them.  

Leading with love offers many benefits. Servant leadership increases morale and support, lowering turnover, which in hand, makes the classroom the best environment for both children and teachers. It also instills confidence in both teachers and children, which they then pass on to others. Leading with love helps children and teachers work as a team to work as a team to solve problems creatively.  When the adults model this type of leadership and interaction with those around them, the children are exposed to it and more likely to replicate that behavior. 

 Below are some steps that can be taken to start being a servant leader.  

  • Trust and influence those you are leading. 
  • Be a life-long learner. 
  • Motivate those around you towards a common goal and inspire them to grow to their fullest potential. 
  • Always stay positive and bring positivity into the classroom environment. 
  • Provide constant communication and feedback with your team. Also be open to hearing feedback from your team.  
  • Show empathy and appreciation to those around you. 

These are just starting points on how to apply servant leadership in ECE. For more information on servant leadership, check out these resources:  

Leadership Management in Childcare

Three Leadership Concepts for Courageous Leaders