The 3 I's of Leadership

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

If you were to Google ‘Leadership’, you would be inundated with methodology, perspectives, theories and strategies to help you become a better leader. There would be a plethora of wise words, examples or strong and powerful leadership balanced with articles on the importance of communicative leadership or being a 3 minute leader. It’s a minefield. So, it’s no wonder that leaders in the early years sector are in need of guidance, strategies and methods to enable them to grow as leaders and develop their leadership skills. There is a simple and straightforward perspective that early years leaders will have heard of, yet may not have thought about linking it to their own leadership journey.


The 3 I’s

In May 2019, the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) was launched for use in September 2019. This included breaking down the Quality of Education judgment into 3 areas: intent, implementation and impact. These three elements are used to support settings improve their quality of education from a childcare perspective, but can those elements also support the development of leadership in early years?

Intent – ‘Intent’ is about reflecting on what you have done in order to identify what you intend to do to support the development of individual children in your setting. As part of this process, you have to consider how you can be sure you are meeting the needs of all children.

From a leadership perspective, intent is about reflecting and identifying what you intend to do to support the development of your setting as a whole and the individual staff members within your team. As part of this process, you have to consider how you can be sure you are meeting the needs of all staff and the setting as a whole. This element is an opportunity to demonstrate a ‘clear and ambitious vision for providing high-quality, inclusive education and training to all’ as set out in the EIF.


Implementation – This identifies how we support all aspects of children’s development through the activities, environments and experiences we provide, how we interact with the children and our understanding of their individual needs. Implementation considers how we differentiate our service to meet different developmental stages and needs of the children in our setting.

If we put that into a leadership context, implementation will identify how we support our staff team to provide those experiences for children, how do we manage staff training and development to ensure the care and education they offer is of a high standard? Implementation might identify how we interact with staff, consider their individual needs, plans and future goals. How do we differentiate and encourage diversity in our staff teams, how do we manage their wellbeing and mental health, along with how often we support with supervisions, check-ins and ongoing communications? As stated in the EIF, leaders need to show how they ‘focus on improving staff’s subject, pedagogical and pedagogical content knowledge to enhance the teaching of the curriculum and the appropriate use of assessment’. This element provides a clear pathway to demonstrating that knowledge and focus.




Impact – This element supports us to identify a child’s progress and highlight any areas for concern. It is about recognising and evaluating the impact of your service, and how this is supporting the children reach their milestones, develop their skills, knowledge and abilities. The impact seeks to identify how you recognise the milestones that children have achieved and what do you do to support children who are not reaching their milestones?

From a leadership standpoint, impact is about identifying the impact of our overall service on the wider community and the team we employ. Is the setting we lead supporting children’s over all wellbeing, whilst supporting staff teams to grow and flourish in their role? How do we monitor the effectiveness of our provision and what are we doing as leaders to improve our service? How are we engaging with our staff team to ‘take account of the main pressures on them’?



Its clear to see that the 3 I’s within the EIF can be applied to leadership in the early years. It may be a great way for leaders to demonstrate effective leadership using the elements. Perhaps the 3 elements can become headings of a leadership or setting development document, or a clear way demonstrate how leadership is managed and evaluated within the setting. Perhaps this is a way that you can streamline your leadership and management approach?


The Key leadership works to support early years leaders in their role, with various resources and virtual support. Please contact us for further information.

310 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All