Effective Technical and Adaptive Leadership

The INSPIRE ACTION framework was developed to assist those responsible for administrative oversight of local early childhood special education programs to identify and celebrate strong program components and to identify those program components most in need of improvement. The development was sparked by recognition that many local program leaders (e.g., Directors of Special Education, elementary principals, some special education coordinators) have limited knowledge of early childhood special education and are unable to consistently determine the presence or absence of ECSE program quality.


Program leaders are the individuals responsible for planning, implementing, and evaluating the early childhood special education program. Depending upon the administrative structure within a program, the leader may be the building principal, a director of special education, a special education coordinator or teachers on special assignment empowered to make decisions on behalf of the program.

This component acknowledges two discrete leadership dimensions: technical leadership and adaptive leadership. A strong technical leader is a good manager, able to apply in-depth knowledge of school finance, data reporting, regulatory compliance and early childhood intervention to daily situations in which there is substantial agreement about what needs to be done and reasonable certainty about how to do it (Stacey 2002). An adaptive leader is able help an organization clarify and affirm values, set goals, articulate a vision, and chart a course of action to achieve that vision in order to support children and families to have positive experiences and achieve meaningful outcomes. Leadership quality is achieved when the individuals with technical and adaptive leadership skills are empowered by upper-level administrators to make decisions independently or as part of a program team and provide oversight of the implementation of those decisions. Achieving quality is challenging when those with knowledge are not empowered to lead or when those in leadership roles do not have or seek out important information.


DEC Recommended Practices are a DEC initiative that bridges the gap between research and practice, offering guidance to parents and professionals who work with young children who have or are at risk for developmental delays or disabilities.

The ECIPs are Minnesota’s early learning standards. Revised and expanded in 2016, these standards are a framework for a common set of developmentally appropriate expectations for children ages birth to kindergarten, within a context of shared responsibility for helping children meet these expectations. The ECIPs are aligned to the Minnesota Kindergarten Academic Standards.

PDF-Guided Resources and Support

Please contact your regional PDF if you have investigated all resources provided here, but continue to have questions or concerns related to this core component of INSPIRE ACTION.

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