Social Services Leadership Development

The issue:

In response to research by the Scottish Leadership Foundation, the Scottish Government identified a need for better leadership and management in the social services sector in Scotland.

The solution:

Leading to Deliver was a leadership development programme, fully funded by the Scottish Executive for 500 first-line and middle social service managers in cohorts of 100 in each of the five years from 2003 to 2007.  The programme was aimed at building the capacity and capability of public, voluntary and private sector managers to lead and deliver high quality, user-focused services.  The programme was delivered by the Taylor Clarke Partnership of Glasgow, and accredited as a Post-graduate Certificate in Social Services Leadership by The Robert Gordon University of Aberdeen.  I was one of the Taylor Clarke facilitators for each of the five programmes.

Leading to Deliver

Leading to Deliver comprised four 3-day residential modules, each followed by a written assignment that allowed participants to reflect on aspects of their own practice in relation to the themed material for the module, and in reference to published texts on transformational and transactional leadership theory and implementation.  The programmes were supplemented by an e-learning facility, mentoring, a workplace project for participants, and engagement events for participants’ line managers.

Module 1 focused on the concept of leadership and participants’ own leadership capabilities. At the end of this module, participants were able to:

  • Understand themselves better in terms of their existing and future leadership approach
  • Understand the strengths, weaknesses and appropriateness of various leadership approaches to their Social Services environment
  • Understand a model for leading change and understand how to balance this with leading delivery;
  • Produce a personal development plan and learning contract
  • Understand the interaction of leadership with governance, values and ethics and apply this knowledge to different contexts.

Module 2 examined the context for change in Social Services in Scotland, how participants might influence that change and how they might lead people through it.   At the end of this module, participants were able to:

  • Understand the current context for change in social services nationally and locally
  • Identify core skills and behaviours needed for effective leadership of change
  • Evaluate theories and models of change to support the change process
  • Develop skills and techniques in influencing and accepting change.

Module 3 focused on the creation of change, identifying what needs to change, how it can change, and how to budget for that change.  At the end of this module, participants were able to:

  • Understand the nature and practice of strategic management, and how to influence the strategic development of social services by leading strategic planning activities for the development of social services and integrated, joint, multi-disciplinary services
  • Understand what services are in the public services context and develop competence in applying a generic service model to design and develop customer-facing and customer-focused public services, such as a ‘whole person centred, life episode service’
  • Understand the increased value of process management alongside people management as a key competence of leadership and be able to lead process design and process improvement
  • Understand how strategy, policy, people, structures processes and systems can be integrated to deliver better public services, their resource implications, and the means of performance management, using a balanced scorecard.

Module 4 examined the issues of interaction and ethical difference in interdisciplinary teams and effective partnership working.  At the end of this module, participants were able to:

  • Identify and evaluate the key features of effective partnerships and collaborative working in order to provide a seamless service delivery to users and carers
  • Develop confidence and skills in leading and participating in multi-disciplinary, multi-agency and cross-sectoral teams
  • Enable and inspire individuals to deliver the future social services agenda
  • Identify the rationale of decisions and the impact of ethics.

Leading to Deliver concluded with Module 5, a substantial and valuable piece of written work, pulling together the learning achieved throughout the previous modules and considering its application to participants’ own area of practice.

The outcome:

Between 2004 and 2006, during the lifespan of Leading to Deliver, a major review of social services was undertaken by the Scottish Government – the 21st Century Review of Social Work.  The review led to the development of a 5-year change programme for social work services in Scotland — Changing Lives.  Leading to Deliver was adapted to incorporate this new programme, and new objectives were defined:

  • To produce leaders who understand the Changing Lives agenda, and are able to play a leadership role within it
  • To equip participants as adaptive leaders, able both to act as role models and lead change
  • To produce sustainable benefits from the knowledge, skills and understanding of the participants beyond the end of the programme.

Independent evaluation of the programmes commissioned by the Scottish Government found that:

  • Impacts on participants included improvements to self-awareness, confidence, understanding of strategic management, ability to change more effectively, learning a range of leadership styles, using practical tools and the course materials for reference
  • Impacts on staff included more effective delegation, and earning respect and trust
  • Impacts on service users included improved engagement in initiatives

And, overall, the majority of participants perceived Leading to Deliver to be relevant in improving performance, behaviours and service delivery.

The Taylor Clarke Partnership was the recipient of the 2009 Scottish National Training Award for its facilitation of Leading to Deliver.

The Taylor Clarke Partnership

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