Friday, 20 January 2012

"Don't Swear In Front of the Children" - Leadership Thinking


                Leadership has become a common theme in social care and the need for effective leadership is important in all areas of business but what does effective leadership actually mean?

                A search on Amazon for ‘Leadership’ bring up the option of quite a few thousand books and among these will be many different theories and techniques on leadership but one important aspect of leadership is only given cursory mention and that is acting as a role model.

                Anybody who has studied Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) will be familiar with the concept of modelling. The theory here is that it is possible to replicate the excellence of others by observing and replicating what they do (in terms of behaviour and physiology), how they do it (such as internal thinking etc) and why they do it (beliefs, motivations etc.), if these can be replicated then it should be possible to achieve the same success.

                This theory is very revealing especially if we look at it the other way around!

                At an instinctive level how do we learn? For the moment ignore all the different theories on learning styles etc and think about the basic, primeval way in which we learn. We learn by observing and replicating behaviour. This is how we do it from the moment we are born. We emulate the behaviour of our parents and we often develop the same beliefs and ideals that surround us as we grow up. As parents we often try to control the way that we behave in front of the kids to ensure they do not emulate some of the less desirable adult traits or use of language.

These instilled values, beliefs and behaviours may change as we interact with others at school and as our interactions with others influence our lives, we seek the best models to emulate to improve our lives.

                As a simplistic illustration how often do we see people who have been bullied become bullies themselves? Obviously this is a vague generalisation and certainly not true in many instances but it always seems to make sense because that is how, at a basic level, we understand learning behaviour and the idea that a successful behaviour (e.g. bullying without being caught doing it) can reap benefits in our lives.

                It is this basic, instinctual level of learning that is so important in the workplace.

                Effective leadership means acting and behaving in the way that you want your staff team to act.

                The ‘do as I say don’t do as I do’ style of leadership is inevitably doomed because of the unconscious instinct to replicate the behaviour of those in immediate authority.  When a boss tells staff to do this and that and work harder then disappears into his office for a rest what do the rest of the staff do? Chances are that they, too, stop working or at least slow down the pace at which they work.

                Whereas a leader who is enthusiastic and seen to be working hard is likely to inspire the same in their team with little need to actually express that ethic in words.

                Effective leadership is leading by example, being a role model to all staff and if we are to improve leadership skills across the care sector we need to focus on imparting the skills needed to be an effective role model  across the many and varied organisations that provide care.