Mid-level roles in education have been widely explored, primarily in schools, but little research has been conducted during the systemic reform that involves creating a mid-level role between end units and the system. The present study explores the sense-making of Early Childhood Leaders (ECLs) at the initial stage of their new role as mid-level managers. The new role was established as a result of a national administrative reform that, among others, made the systemic hierarchy more vertical by establishing a new mid-level layer between superintendents and early childhood teachers. This qualitative research included semi-structured interviews with 47 mid-level preschool managers. The study sought to uncover their views of the main challenges associated with assuming a new mid-level managerial role, and their coping styles in this role. The analysis revealed that the new mid-level management role raises three challenges concerning the ambiguity of identity: power base, voice and interpersonal loyalty. ECLs cope with these challenges by assuming different types of leader identities, those of the representative, the companion, and the mediator. The implications of the findings for the limited knowledge on ECLs and for the introduction of the new mid-level roles are discussed.


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