What is good leadership? Yes, it’s about inspiring your team and supporting them to deliver excellent practice, but it’s also about challenge. So when a group of senior social workers met recently for leadership training, the first testimony was about tackling poor performance. The group was asked for reflections and updates since its last session. One participant, a young woman, immediately volunteered an account of how she had confronted a member of her team about the standard of their work.
“I challenged her and she left – walked out of the building the same day,” the woman said. “I had really prepared, using feedback from the role play we did. It was really effective. I think I was able to stand my ground better. I am a bit of a coward sometimes when it comes to challenging people, but I felt really strong about what I was saying.”
The training was being conducted by Firstline, a new spinoff from the controversial Frontllne fast-track training scheme for elite graduates entering children’s social work. Supporters and critics alike of the parent scheme will draw evidence from such a vignette: the former because it shows more rigour and backbone being injected into what they see as the too-cosy culture of social work; the latter because it reflects a harsh and output-driven managerialism that they perceive in Frontline’s approach.