Paper origami boats: red boat leading blue boats.All leadership roles can be tough but when the team that you lead provide care and support for some of the most vulnerable people in society, it can be even more daunting. Our evidence, gleaned through hundreds our hours of coaching conversations, shows that Registered Managers and other social care leaders:

  • can be afraid of how they’ll cope
  • worry about how to lead their team effectively
  • wonder how to keep everyone safe and happy.

If you’ve ever shared similar concerns you’re in good company! With this in mind, I’ve been thinking of a few tips to help you become a great leader and to win the trust of your team and the people you care for and support:

Act like a leader – no matter how you feel

Set the tone of your leadership style. Be confident, self-assured and respectful with everyone you meet. If you don’t feel confident and self-assured, fake these feelings until you really begin to feel them – lots of research suggests you start to feel how you act very quickly. You work in social care – you know how to be respectful, just make sure you always are. If you’re new to the position, people will be developing their perceptions of you. If you’ve been in position for a while, they’ll already have made them. Whichever it is, it’s never too late to change. Work hard to earn the trust of your team. Staff want to look up to their leader. Set the desired tone, values and culture from the start, or start right now.

Set ambitious goals

Part of your role as a leader is to set ambitious goals. They need to be specific enough so that everyone understands them and can buy into them, only then will everyone be willing to work together to achieve them. Note that ambitious goals are not unrealistic goals. Whatever you set, it must be achievable – but it must also be inspiring. Do you want to raise your CQC inspection to Outstanding? Is this achievable right now? Is it inspiring?

Truth and trust

You can’t do everything, so don’t. The greatest leaders surround themselves with people who can offer their own solutions, get things done and support the team to achieve the goals. As a leader, your role is to set the vision and determine the goals, you need to trust people to make it happen. Communicate the vision for the future and if things need to change, tell people and involve them in making those changes. Show that you are confident and trust your team by letting them participate in the plan and strategy to achieve the goal. If your team are cautious of change, give them greater clarity on what you are trying to achieve, and another chance.

No more ‘them and us’

One of the biggest groans in many organisations is that employees feel distant from managers. Be aware of this and stamp it out. Have a clear message of all working together. You’ll need to work hard to make sure everyone hears this message, so keep it out there.

You don’t have to rescue people

You only learn by making mistakes. All people make them. The best teams make them often and learn fast from them, then they try again. Allow your team to make mistakes, to work things out for themselves. Be there to guide if necessary but don’t rescue them from events where they can learn. Times are tough especially in social care. Change can be difficult to cope with, but if we want maximum energy invested in reaching the goal we can’t wrap people in cotton wool and let them hide their mistakes. Have an open culture of embracing mistakes and learning from them and record that you and your team are doing so.

Embrace innovation

Talk to your people – it’s often those at the ‘coalface’ who know their job better than anyone. If there is a way to do it better, they’ll know, the only way you’ll find out is by asking them.

Be decisive

You can’t be a leader incapable of making a decision, sometimes you’ll make the wrong decision, but being indecisive can undermine confidence and trust. You must lead and that means taking a chance on decisions based on the facts you have to hand. By making decisions you’ll gain support and credibility. If you’ve made a wrong decision, own it. Talk to people about it, you’ll gain much more trust by doing so.

Be swift, be radical

Great leaders need take risks at times, sometimes you need to be quite radical in your thinking. Playing it safe is generally not a great rule for great leadership. Social care is a state of constant change so stay ahead by acting quickly, embracing new ideas and innovations and taking a chance on new ways of working with your team.

Be passionate, enthusiastic and proud

Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk too – great leaders practise what they preach. You must believe in yourself and what you are trying to achieve for other to believe in you, follow you and buy in to your vision and ambition. Show you’re passionate, enthusiastic and proud – even on the days when you don’t feel it. Be genuinely excited about what you know you can all achieve together, working for a leader like that is motivating and inspiring and your team will support you to realise your ambition.

Every day is a school day

The best leaders learn all the time. Whether it is through reading, listening to audiobooks, podcasts or broadcasts, watching documentaries, investing in training or talking with colleagues and friends in other sectors, every day is a school day. You may have picked up something useful in these tips – I hope so! If you’re the kind of leader who likes a more interactive experience we can help you.