A common struggle for newly appointed social work leaders and managers is the transition they’re required to make from being a practitioner to becoming a value-based leader and manager. There is no doubt, if the transition goes well, that the impact of effective social work leaders and managers on staff wellbeing and performance (and, by implication, the well-being of children and families) will be positive and significant.
If we want resilient children and families we need resilient practitioners, which in turn requires resilient leaders. This section focuses on effective leadership behaviours in child and family social work.
Knowledge Briefing – Being a social work leader
This knowledge briefing is written specifically for practice supervisors. It includes key messages from research and practice evidence about:
- An overview of different models of leadership which align with child and family social work.
- Differences between leadership and management and the need for practice supervisors to be confident in both.
- The importance of attending to emotions and relationships as a practice leader.
Challenge questions and reflective prompts are included to help you consider how you might use these ideas in your role as practice supervisor.
Supporting practice supervisors to use their influence
Jan Williams, Team Manager talks about how a focus on strengthening the leadership element of the practice supervisor role has been an influential part of Essex's journey to receiving an 'outstanding' rating for Children's Social Care from OFSTED.
Moving from the dance floor to the balcony
Many practice supervisors find the transition from social worker to manager takes a while to adjust to. One of the key differences is that you occupy a very different position in the team. This is often referred to as moving from the dance floor to the balcony. In other words sometimes you need to be in amongst the action with your team (on the dance floor) as well as having a clear focus on how effectively your team is working (which you can only see from the balcony). This film explains these ideas in more detail.
The accompanying tool ‘Moving from the dance floor to the balcony’ uses this concept to help you review your work as a practice supervisor and consider which tasks are better suited to a balcony or dance floor position.
What makes an effective leader?
This learning tool explores the qualities of great leaders and presents an overview of ideas about leadership in social work. You can use it to review and reflect on how you want to develop your leadership skills as a practice supervisor.
Practice supervisors who use situational leadership know each of their supervisees well and are able to adapt their leadership style to the different needs of each team member. This tool explains what situational leadership is and asks you to think about when it is appropriate to use different leadership styles with your team.
The cultural web
The cultural web is a visual tool which explores a range of factors that contribute to an organisational or team culture (not all of which are visible or tangible). You can use this tool to review your own team culture and plan how you might influence this to create a positive and supportive working environment.
Developing cultural competence
The concept of cultural competence helps us to explore barriers which prevent a culturally diverse staff group from being represented at all levels within the organisation. It is helpful to think about this both in terms of the wider organisation (policies and structure) as well as at the level of internal or team culture (behaviours and attitudes). This tool provides a framework for you to explore how you can develop greater cultural competence as a practice supervisor and within your team/organisation.
What works well: the role of encouragers
This film developed by Caroline Aldridge and Sandra McGough (What Works Well Leads at Norfolk County Council) highlights the importance of building a culture of appreciative inquiry and learning within teams and organisations. We recommend you watch this film before looking at working on the next tool.
The what works practice learning circle
This tool guides you through the process of using a what works practice learning circle; an approach to appreciative inquiry which can be used in one-to-one or group supervision.