Effective leadership influences the process quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs and therefore the academic, health and socio-emotional outcomes for children. Yet, the cultivation of leadership is impacted by the complex nature of ECEC environments and the persistent challenges therein. Complex workforce issues, inadequate preparation for positional leadership roles and few opportunities for professional development for emerging leaders challenge the growth of effective leadership and the development of sustainable leadership for the ECEC profession. This commentary gives an insight into the challenges of leadership within ECEC and leader supply and suggests leadership emergence and enactment is potentially cultivated by broadening theoretical and pragmatic propositions. Complexity leadership theory within complex adaptive systems is presented as a framework for leadership cultivation within ECEC and opportunities for leadership development are highlighted.