Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Donna Brackin


The problem that precipitated this study was the marked differences among early childhood education leaders in the quality of leadership for private early childhood entities as indicated by a voluntary quality rating improvement system in a Midwestern state. The scholarly literature lacks studies on characteristics of high-€quality leadership in early childhood education. The purpose of this qualitative descriptive case study was to explore characteristics of quality early childhood leadership based on examination of successful early childhood programs using leadership trait theory as a conceptual framework. Research questions were designed to examine characteristics of successful early childhood leaders based on the components of trait theory as reported by leaders themselves and as perceived by teachers working with them and parents whose children attend their programs. Data were collected from interviews and questionnaires. The sample included 12 high-€quality leaders who participated in the state quality rating system and had at least 5 years of leadership experience. From each school represented by the leaders, 5 teachers with 2 years of teaching experience and 3 parents with a child enrolled in the early childhood program for a minimum of 6 months participated in the study. Data were thematically coded, looking for themes, differences, and similarities. Common traits across all groups and data collection method were trustworthiness, self-€confidence, and dependability. Positive social change could come about through the encouragement of early childhood leaders who may be confident in awareness of the needs of children and families and dependable and trustworthy in providing an early learning program that may positively develop the emotional, physical, social, and academic needs of children.