Understanding early childhood leadership: Emerging competencies in the context of relationships

Min Sun Shin, Susan L. Recchia, Seung Yeon Lee, Yoon Joo Lee, Lara S. Mullarkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


In this qualitative study, multidimensional characteristics of the emerging leadership behavior of six young children were examined within their early childhood classrooms (infant, toddler, and preschool). Grounded in a constructivist framework, the data were gathered through teacher interviews and classroom observations in a University-affiliated center over a six-week period. Findings yielded two major themes which best described the characteristics of these young leaders: dynamic and charismatic personalities; and a sense of ownership of and a high awareness in the classroom. By examining the ways leadership manifested itself in the classroom, findings also suggested that leadership could be seen as a relational rather than an individual construct. Young leaders seem to exert their social power to develop relationships with peers and teachers and at the same time to include and exclude certain peers or teachers during the interaction. Findings are discussed with reference to implications for practice and suggestions for further study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-316
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Early Childhood Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • childhood development
  • interpersonal competence
  • leadership characteristics
  • qualitative research
  • social behavior
  • young children


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