A laminated cardboard star graced the center of each table at the "Exploring Leadership" seminar presented by the Howard County Early Care and Education Leadership Institute.
Each point of the star represented a different type of leadership: instructional, mentor, community, advocacy and administrative.
As Sharon L. Kagan, the keynote speaker, talked about leadership qualities, she urged the teachers and early-care providers in the room to consider which forms of leadership they possessed.
"Each of us is a leader and each of us is a follower," she said. "The trick is knowing for each of us when to be each."
Kagan, a professor at Columbia University in New York and a senior research scientist at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., is a renowned education and early child care specialist who has served as an adviser to the White House, Congress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
She was the featured speaker at the first summit of the Howard County Early Care and Education Leadership Institute, which was recently created by the Howard County Child Care Resource Center to address issues of leadership for teachers, administrators, parents and others involved in early childhood care and education.
About 120 people attended the event Saturday at Ellicott City Senior Center. Howard County Executive James N. Robey spoke for a few minutes before Kagan was introduced, and Robert Keddell, an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins University, spoke after her. Participants were invited to stay for lunch.
Additional leadership-theme seminars are scheduled for November and next year in March, June and September, said Linda Behsudi, training coordinator for the institute.
Kagan argued that the definitions of leadership that come from corporate America don't apply to early childhood settings. A corporate leader is one person, usually a chief executive officer, who works in a large and hierarchical organization, she said.
In an early childhood setting, on the other hand, there are many leaders - depending on the situation.
She urged participants to look at the laminated stars on their tables. "Each of you is a leader in one of those areas, at least," she said.
Then she set out to define the leadership qualities for each type. A community leader, for example, can connect with business leaders and other members of the community, and has a knack for turning a vision into reality. An instructional leader interprets educational research and brings it alive in the classroom.
An administrative leader goes beyond the many tasks of the job, such as hiring, firing and budgeting, to truly inspire and to make sure the entire organization is in tune with its broader mission. Simply having a title such as administrator or principal is not enough to qualify a person as a leader, she said.
Kagan added another point to the star, that of a conceptual leader - a person who works to change attitudes about early education. "Mostly what they do is have a vision," she said.
Responding to a question from the audience, Kagan said that was the category that best described her. She then asked participants to choose two leadership categories that most defined them, and one in which they were the least competent. The next step was considering leadership areas in which they would like to improve. "You could gear an entire personal development plan around this exercise," she said.
She finished her talk with a discussion of several specific ways to improve leadership in the field, including a need to promote nonacademic opportunities such as internships, a need to improve diversity in the field, and a need for each person to take responsibility for his or her own leadership plan.
"We have been focusing on the ends - getting quality for our kids - but not on the means, which is developing leadership," she said.
Information about the Early Care and Education Leadership Institute, or to sign up for future seminars: Linda Behsudi, 410-313-2649, or send e-mail to email@example.com.