Date of Award

Summer 8-23-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Lisbeth Johnson

Second Advisor

Doug DeVore

Third Advisor

Faith Polk


Purpose: The purpose of this Delphi study was to identify the competencies that early care and education systems leaders should possess as perceived by a panel of early childhood systems leadership experts. This study also identified which leadership competencies experts perceive will have the most impact on transformation of the field into an organized system of practice.

Methodology: This study used a mixed-methods Delphi approach consisting of three electronic surveys to identify competencies needed by early care and education systems leaders as perceived by a panel of national experts. Round 1 consisted of open-ended questions. Round 2 asked the panelists to rate each competency’s importance using a 6-point Likert scale. In Round 3 panelists were requested to choose which competencies were most important for systems leaders to impact the transformation of the field into an organized system of practice.

Major Findings: A quantitative analysis of Round 2 found that the expert panelists agreed on 65 competencies as important or very important for systems leaders to acquire. Some of the most highly rated competencies identified were developing relationships and partnerships, valuing diversity, collaborative leadership skills, and commitment to equity. In Round 3, 14 competencies were selected as necessary for systems leaders to impact transformation of the field, including systems thinking, big picture perspective, commitment to equity, and knowledge of policy and legislation. Through a qualitative literature analysis, the themes systems thinking, and collaborative and inclusive leadership were found to be most aligned with the research literature. A surprising finding was that the expert panelists did not rate knowledge of child development as important for systems leaders, which contrasted with the research literature.

Recommendations for Future Research: Include (a) replication of this study with representation from additional systems leaders throughout the country; (b) perceptions of stakeholders throughout the ECE workforce regarding leadership competencies, including diverse and marginalized populations and those in a variety of leadership roles; (c) tasks and objectives of systems leaders and a clear definition of their roles; and (d) impact of the absence or presence of knowledge of child development on the decisions of ECE systems leaders.