Leadership and management in social services

The European Social Network’s (ESN) working group on Leadership, Performance and Innovation held its final meeting on 9-10 September in Brussels. The main topic of the meeting was leadership in social services, the discussions being led by a guest expert, Jo Cleary, the Chair of the National Skills Academy and until recently Director of Adult and Community Services at Lambeth Council in London:

“Leadership is not just about authority at the top of organisations. It’s a practical understanding – and awareness – about how you do what you do, and the impact on others. It’s about behaviours, and taking responsibility for them. And it’s everyone’s business – people working at all levels in social care.”


Leadership in social servicesThe National Skills Academy for Social Care (NSA) in London, UK, has built up its work on leadership in social services for adults over the last few years. It developed the Leadership Qualities Framework (see diagram) and ‘Leadership starts with me’, a brochure to promote leadership at all levels within adult social care. This was done in consultation with service users, carers, providers, commissioners and regulators and has the endorsement of the Department of Health and the Care Minister in the UK.

The NSA runs a number of training programmes on leadership and management, specifically on commissioning, governance and for emerging leaders, front-line managers, graduates aspiring to leadership roles and new directors of adult social services.

She drew a distinction between leadership and management:

  • Management helps an organisation do what it promised to do, to a consistent level of quality (it is about implementation and processes)

  • Leadership is about taking an organisation into the future (at strategic level) and producing “useful change” at all levels.

The NSA model sees leadership as critical in achieving social care reforms, improving quality and making services more person-centred. Jo Cleary also quoted a naval commodore, Jake Moores, who says that leaders have to have emotional intelligence and who believes that “you can teach leadership.

Members of the working group were positive about the Leadership Qualities Framework. They commented on the importance of ‘authenticity’ in leadership i.e. that staff, partners and service users see a leader as having a consistent and transparent approach. They also talked about the importance of strategic leadership being shared with heads of department, senior managers in partner organisations and, in some cases, local elected politicians.

Find out more about the work of ESN's Leadership, Performance, Innovation working group and read the 'Contemporary issues in the public management of social services in Europe' series. ESN members can access the presentations from all meetings of the working group in the Projects section of the Members' Area.