Supporting and developing resilience in social work
Supporting and developing resilience in social work

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Supporting and developing resilience in social work

3.1 Managers and leaders: what’s the difference?

There is a considerable body of theory and writing about ‘leadership’, ‘management’, and the connections and differences between them. You explore some of these ideas in Activity 4. Developing an ongoing critical awareness of the leadership characteristics of the managers and leaders with whom you work will help your own development.

Activity 4 Management and leadership

Allow about 1 hour 30 minutes

For this activity you need to undertake three readings. The first two are short extracts which provide a way in to the topics of management and leadership, introducing some key concepts. The third reading is longer and explores theoretical ideas in greater depth.

Read from Practising Social Work in a Complex World :

Then, to gain a deeper understanding of management and leadership theories, read the following book chapter: Leading, managing, caring

This is by Simons and Lomax and appears in Mackian, S. and Simons J. (eds) Leading, Managing, Caring: Understanding Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care , Routledge/Open University.

When you have finished reading, in Table 2 illustrate and evaluate the characteristics of any two or more leadership approaches that you have read about, using examples from your own experience. People have different preferences about leadership styles that work well for them. Note the advantages and disadvantages of each model from your own perspective.

Table 2 Your answers to Activity 4

Leadership models Example from own experience Pros and cons from your perspective
Transformational
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Transactional
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Situational
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Distributed
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Now think about the following questions in relation to your place of employment. In what ways do organisational structure and culture impact on the experience of being a social worker or a service user in a practice agency?

  • In terms of your own self-management (personal management) what obligations and responsibilities do you and your manager have? What support do you gain from being part of the organisation?
  • How do power relations within the agency impact on yourself or your colleagues? What are the implications for the service?
  • In the light of these ideas, what can you expect from your manager?
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Comment

This activity should have introduced you to some key ideas in management theory, and prompted you to think about your own relationship to leadership. You may have been a manager yourself or have worked with some inspiring and very competent managers.

An organisation’s hierarchical structure and its culture (often implicit) are closely linked with its leadership model. All of these will impact on the experience of being a social worker or a service user in your practice agency. Workplace culture can set the scene for responses to practitioners’ emotions and concerns.

In practice, there are overlaps between the theoretical approaches and large organisations do not usually operate according to a single management model; it is likely that you identified a mixed approach on your examples. The transactional model is said to be the most commonly found leadership approach (Pine and Healy, 2007). On the other hand, you may have experienced leaders who take a ‘transformational’ approach, seeking to engage people’s cooperation and commitment. You may have noticed ‘situational’ leaders who can adjust their leadership style to suit different contexts. Perhaps you work in an organisation which takes quite a different view of leadership; in a small team, leadership may be more flexible and organic;or there may be a participatory and collective approach to decision-making. There are similarities between a transformational leadership style and a feminist one (Pine and Healy, 2007); and you may work with particular managers and leaders who adopt a feminist approach in terms of promoting collaboration and sharing power.

What can you expect from your manager?

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