Early childhood education leadership in Finland through the lens of structure and agency

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In early childhood education, the concept of distributed leadership has emerged as a key analytical tool for understanding leadership as well as a normative guide for what leadership should be. The concept originates in Peter Gronn’s work, where it is positioned as overcoming the structure-agency debate, which is a foundational question in the study of social reality. While distributed leadership itself has been extensively studied, the problem motivating Gronn’s work—the structure-agency problematique—has rarely been investigated. In an effort to create a deeper understanding of the role of structure and agency in constituting early childhood education leadership, this study examines how these two key dimensions of social reality structure early childhood education center leaders’ understanding of leadership. The data for the study consist of focus group interviews where early childhood education center leaders discuss various aspects of leadership. The data are analyzed in the broad framework of post-structural discourse analysis, using the analytic concept of frame, which reveals the interplay of structure and agency in early childhood education leaders’ understandings of their work. The findings show that early childhood education center leaders’ understanding of leadership is mainly focused on the side of structure and offers few chances for the kind of collective effort hoped for by Gronn.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-533
Issue number3
Early online date2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Early childhood education
  • distributed leadership
  • frame analysis
  • post-structuralism
  • structure and agency

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1


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