It is my personal opinion that leadership, at least for me, is helping people. As social workers, this is at the heart of what we do every day, whether we are at work, at home or out in the community. As a social work student, I find leadership to be invaluable. I am looking to my professors as well as my peers to guide my education and help sharpen me into a better clinician. I am utilizing the materials we are provided with in class to lead me in learning about best practices, theories of practice and to point me to resources I was not previously aware of. It is my ultimate goal to never stop learning, which means that I will never stop being lead by somebody or something. I also strive to be the best leader that I can be, both professionally and personally.
I have been supervised by many leaders over the course of my career thus far, and I can say that the main difference between those who I would consider excellent leaders and those that I feel had significant room for improvement was this same idea of helping. The supervisors that I have had that I have grown the most under have genuinely desired and empowered me to grow as a clinician; to make mistakes, to get my hands dirty and to hone my skills in very practical ways. They have been available for consultation and regular supervision but have not micromanaged their employees, but instead trusted their clinical judgment. Finally, the supervisors that I have had that have been really exceptional have all been life-long learners themselves. They have all understood that social work is an ever-changing field and that what may have been a best practice years ago may be considered grossly out-of-date. The reason they continue to push themselves and learn, sometimes at great personal cost, is so that they can provide the best help and care possible to not only their employees, but also the clients that they serve.
The importance of being an effective and professional leader in social work can not be overstated. It has implications that reach far beyond that of the clinician’s reputation and affect their clients as well as their agency as a whole. If leaders are, instead of humble and focused on helping, focused on making a name for themselves or inflating their own importance, everybody around them suffers due to their ego. I have witnessed situations where supervisors are in far over their head and instead of admitting fault, practicing humility and asking for help, they continue to foolishly persist in their same line of thought, all the while losing respect of their colleagues and other professionals that they interact with. Leadership and professionalism in all areas, including communication, consistency and client care, are vital to gaining the respect of all, in particular the other professionals that we all work with.