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How to Navigate the Shift from Practitioner to Manager



Building self confidence as a leader

Thinking about progressing into a management role? New to leadership and looking for advice and tips to make the transition as successful as possible? 

This blog is for you and will outline some helpful strategies to guide you through the process.

Stepping into a leadership role in Early Years requires a completely different skill set compared to that of the practitioner role. While practitioners possess a deep understanding of the curriculum and the daily operations of the setting, transitioning to a management position involves navigating complexities beyond the day to day. Having to deal with staff dynamics, engaging with parents, meeting OFSTED requirements and effectively running a nursery, can all be pretty overwhelming tasks and they represent a sizable shift from seasoned practitioner to novice leader.

Clearly, beginning the journey into management, lacking the necessary skills or experience to lead and support your team, can induce feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and challenge your self-belief. Building confidence therefore really is the key to achieving success and to becoming an effective leader. So, that being said, what are the steps to gaining confidence in management? Let’s explore some of the strategies that will help you achieve a confident and successful transition.

  • Invest in Training: It might seem obvious but getting appropriate training is crucial, especially considering that leadership and management skills may not come naturally to everyone. Understanding how to lead a team effectively involves delving into theories of leadership and management, which can provide really valuable insights into different styles and approaches. By investing in quality training, you can gain a deeper understanding of your own leadership style and personality, enabling you to harness your strengths and identify and address any areas for improvement. This reflective process is an essential part of the leadership journey and key to fostering confidence and competence in managing a team effectively. Equally, learning about various leadership theories, equips you with the knowledge and strategies necessary to navigate new and potentially complex challenges and situations that will inevitably arise in a managerial role. Ultimately, investing in training will both build your confidence and enhance your capabilities as a leader. It will also ensure that you are well-equipped to support and inspire your team toward success.
  • Find a Mentor: Having a mentor or a supportive network can be immensely valuable when stepping into a managerial role in Early Years. Having someone to confide in and lean on, who has navigated and overcome the challenges you are facing, can provide invaluable guidance, insight and perspective. By tapping into the knowledge and insights of a trusted mentor, you can accelerate your own learning curve and develop the skills you identified as key development areas for yourself in step 1 to effectively mentor your own team. Over time, as you grow in your role, you’ll have the opportunity to then pay it forward and become a mentor for others in your team, fostering a culture of support, collaboration and collective expertise within your organisation and driving continued growth and success
  • Grow your knowledge: “Knowledge is power,” as the old adage goes, and in the realm of Early Years management, this is especially true. Thoroughly familiarising yourself with key legislation such as the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) 2024 and the OFSTED Inspection Framework is vital. By understanding these regulatory frameworks inside and out, you can gain the confidence that you are not only meeting but exceeding welfare requirements and delivering exemplary practice within your setting. Being well-versed in the intricacies of the EYFS 2024 ensures that your provision and setting are aligned with current standards and statutory requirements, while a deep understanding of the OFSTED inspection framework empowers you to proactively address areas for improvement and showcase the strengths of your setting during inspections. Armed with this crucial knowledge, you can lead your team with positivity and confidence, knowing that you are providing the highest quality care and provision for the young children in your community.

The importance of a shared vision

  • Define Your Vision: Being really clear about your vision and embedding your values into the fabric of your Early Years setting is fundamental to effective leadership at any level, whether you’re a room leader, deputy, or manager. Believing wholeheartedly in these principles and instilling them in your team fosters a sense of purpose and cohesion. By articulating clear values and expectations, you create a shared understanding of the ethos guiding the practice in your setting, ensuring alignment and consistency across all the members of your team. Holding yourself and others accountable to these high expectations demonstrates your own commitment to excellence and builds trust within your team. Whether it’s a focus on inclusivity, creativity, a particular pedagogy or staff continuous improvement, having and modelling core values serves as a compass, guiding decision-making and actions within your setting. Ultimately, by embodying and promoting these values yourself, you cultivate an environment where everyone is motivated to contribute their best towards achieving those common goals. 

       Stepping up into any leadership role can be daunting, especially without adequate support or the necessary skills in place. However, it can also be an incredibly exciting and rewarding role and by implementing the strategies outlined in this blog, you can navigate the challenges and thrive in your new position. Ultimately by proactively addressing these key areas, you not only enhance your own effectiveness as a leader but you also contribute to the overall success and cohesion of your team.

In conclusion then, ascending the Early Years ladder from practitioner to senior management requires a holistic approach that encompasses training, mentorship, knowledge acquisition, vision, and effective management strategies. By investing in your own development and fostering a supportive environment for your team, you can navigate the challenges of leadership with confidence and lead your organisation towards excellence in the Early Years. 


You are in the right place for more support

For additional advice and tips why not visit this previous blog  

Further training and advice options are also available below:

For information about our Stepping Up to Management course follow this link:

Stepping up to Management July 2024 – MBK Group

For information about our monthly subscription clinic to provide support and advice for leaders and managers click here:

Early Years Rocks Clinic – MBK Group

Alternatively for 1:1 coaching for managers via Zoom, please follow the link below to book a call with Kelly  


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