Are Leadership Essentials the Foundation of Whole Leadership?

by Barb Volpe

March 28, 2016


Read more from the whole leadership blog series

My colleague Mike Abel, in an earlier blog post raised a question I keep coming back to: Are leadership essentials (LE) the foundation on which administrative leadership (AL) and pedagogical leadership (PL) are built? 

As I think back on my career working in Head Start, it seems that it was those Leadership Essential competencies (awareness of self and others, cultural competence, and ethical conduct) that helped our program be successful through some challenging times. Changes in education requirements for teachers, increased diversity of staff and parent policy council, and changes in curriculum and assessment tools were a few of the challenges that gave me the opportunity to use and grow the LE competencies necessary to meet changes in our organization.

My role, as the education coordinator, involved both Administrative Leadership and Pedagogical Leadership. However, awareness of self, others, and the profession; communication and team building; cultural competence; and ethical conduct absolutely were the foundation that supported my work as an education coordinator. Being authentic and conducting my work in an ethical manner helped me earn a trusting relationship with teachers and staff so that, when changes in policy or initiatives occurred, they were willing to walk with me to meet and exceed the outcomes set for us.

It seems to me that anyone who is in an Administrative or Pedagogical leadership role for any length of time develops his or her own LE foundation and is mindful that the competencies and qualities of Leadership Essentials may not be fully developed or consistently used. Do you find this to be true? Are there any other competencies or qualities of LE that you think are missing?

  • Please share your thoughts on why the core competencies of Leadership Essentials are or are not the foundation of Administrative and Pedagogical Leadership.
  • Please share how one or more of your core competencies/qualities of Leadership Essentials have made a difference in how effective you are in your Administrative and/or Pedagogical Leadership roles.

I look forward to hearing your story. Please join the conversation by posting a response in the comments section below. Also, please join the conversation on social media using #WholeLeadership

Barb Volpe is the Quality Specialist Manager at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University. In this role, Barb supports the Illinois Quality Specialists in their technical assistance work with center and family child care programs. She develops and presents trainings on leadership and best practices in early childhood programs at local, state, and national conferences. Prior to her work at the McCormick Center, Barb was a teacher, site director, and education coordinator at McHenry County Head Start where she worked with children, teachers, and families.

4 Responses to “Are Leadership Essentials the Foundation of Whole Leadership?”

  1. Ann Hentschel says:

    Great post, Barb! I like this idea of Leadership Essential competencies which include awareness of self and others, cultural competence, and ethical conduct. In reflecting about my years as a child care director, much of my work was around “putting out fires.” I often had to stop and consider my own feelings about the set of circumstances before stepping in to offer support or guidance. I’d find myself asking, “what is my role in this; what do I know about the others involved in this situation and what drives them; and what are the core values or morale principles at play?”

    I love this quote from Paula Jorde Bloom’s book From the Inside Out: The Power of Reflection and Self-Awareness… “Insight is more valuable than hindsight.” – Anonymous

  2. melissa says:

    Hi Barb! I absolutely believe that the competencies we are associating with leadership essentials create a strong foundation for a personal leadership story. My passion around the concept of leadership essentials is rooted in my belief that becoming more secure in those competencies will help me develop as a solid leader, even as I struggle with the tasks and opportunities associated with administrative or pedagogical leadership. I am aware (based on comments on other leadership blogs) that some view leadership essentials as encompassing the type of “soft” skills that do not evoke strong leadership. Of course, I disagree and believe being authentic, reflective, and even vulnerable are key to encouraging others to walk with you on this journey.

  3. barbvolpe says:

    Hi Ann, I like the questions you asked yourself before stepping in to offer support or guidance. I think that speaks to how we develop those LE competencies through reflective practice. I had to chuckle as I read the quote from Paula Jorde Bloom’s book-how often have we all looked back and wished we had used our insight before acting or speaking!!

  4. barbvolpe says:

    Hi Melissa, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and passion around LE competencies. I think you have added an important competency that we should think about-the ability to be vulnerable, to let those on your team know that you do not always have all the answers and that you will make mistakes. I like this quote from Patrick Lencioni: “Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”