Appointing an individual capable of leading by example and inspiring workers is vital for organisations in any field. However, on top of this, leaders in social care must also be able to develop a culture that effectively deals with the emotional demands of work and identify stress at an early stage.
A recent Health and Safety Executive study outlined key requirements for effective leadership in care. It found that strong leadership improves the productivity of care workers and contributes to a higher overall level of social care.
The study emphasised the need for leaders within social care to manage the stress levels of staff. Developing an environment that encourages the discussion of the emotional challenges of work is essential in a field where avoiding emotion is almost impossible.
Indeed, good managers will improve performance levels in the workplace by reassuring staff that there is always an open dialogue on stress and that support systems are freely available. Stress levels need to be monitored pro-actively, not when it is too late. Signs of poor personal well-being should be spotted at an early stage and acted upon.
Leaders also need to possess a number of key personal traits. They must be creative in proposing solutions to problems and be confident when implementing changes and making difficult decisions during times of adversity. They should also not be afraid to recognise their own limitations at times as seeking and utilising the support of peers is vital.
Similarly, leaders should take responsibility for their actions and empower staff to be responsible for theirs. Like any senior role, delegating responsibility is crucial in care – it is about being accountable and effectively responding to problems both before and when they arise.
With recent child exploitation scandals including that of Rotherham, which resulted in the resignation of an entire council cabinet, the demand for strong, substantial leadership in care could not be higher. Individuals who are able to empower, delegate and problem solve are essential. Just as important, but often overlooked, is the need for leaders that recognise that reducing the stress levels of staff is imperative to performance levels in social care.
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