Leadership; a key lever for change

Matt Bowsher
Matt Bowsher, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council
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Refreshing Parthership

The first Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) partnership agreement set out the vision for Making It Real and what people should experience in a personalised world. I anticipate that the subsequent partnership agreement will focus on areas for improvement and acceleration. Much more needs to be done in the most challenging of contexts to ensure everyone has the ability to exercise choice and control in social care. Leadership is one of the key levers for change and my blog is themed accordingly. I do not consider myself an expert on leadership. I have spent the significant majority of my life not being a leader.

1)"I don't know." Most of us haven't evolved into the breed of superhuman that the ever improving GCSE trajectory suggested was inevitable. If you set yourself up as the final arbiter of fact you will be both miserable and have the weight of the world on your shoulders. The good news is that the answers are out there, the skill is in working out how to listen.

2) Know your weaknesses. We all have them. Unpack all your weaknesses in your head, assess the strengths of the people around you and be open about what you need. Then do not compromise in finding it.

3) Culture is King! One of my favourite maxims is "culture eats strategy for breakfast." You can design the best strategy in the world, if people don't shape it, buy in to it and then have a clear role in delivering it, expect it to be confined to the dustbin of history.

Strategies don't change things, people and relationships do. The good news is that the Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) Partnership agreement already provides a means to design adult social care in the future.
4) Evidence first. Don't be tempted by big shiny things with innovation labels slapped all over them. People who use care and support services and carers are best placed to tell you what is required. Listen to the evidence, learn from successes and failures elsewhere, speak to your communities and networks and use that evidence as your mandate for change.

5) Create space. Bureaucracy and process can be the enemies of creativity. People can achieve amazing things if they are allowed to explore and take risks, the job as a leader is to create space and the opportunity for change. This is not about changing processes within single organisations it is all about partnerships and the immense potential they bring.

6) Be brave. Given that there are people brighter than you (point one) and that you have weaknesses like any other mortal (point 2) accept that you need people with different talent, views and skills to drive positive change.

7) Change is hard. Implementing positive change is very difficult; more people will tell you things are wrong than they will take responsibility for driving change themselves. Anticipate this, then accept your role as a leader to analyse and understand a range of perspectives.

8) Fail openly. Success all the time is impossible. Things can and will go wrong- understanding why is an opportunity. Making sure it doesn't happen again is about good leadership. Establishing a culture when openness is valued more than relentless success will be about the example you set and the expectations you agree as a group.

9) Be accessible. People will often see your role and status ahead of your personality. Talking to you can be intimidating. Many informal barriers exist that prevent folk from crossing your threshold. Identifying the right means of two way communication is key. Spending time alongside people at the front line can be very powerful albeit a limited insight into how your organisation really functions.

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