Leadership and You

By Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW

Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW

One of NASW’s commitments, in its new strategic plan, is advancing excellence in social work leadership. Several years ago, I wrote an NASW News column, "Transformative Social Work Leadership." I spoke about the importance of transformative leadership for social workers and how this leadership style is congruent with the values articulated in the NASW Code of Ethics.

I believe the most successful social work leaders transform and motivate team members through idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individual consideration and intellectual stimulation. They improve the work by improving the worker.

Idealized Influence

Leaders must generate enthusiasm and optimism for their vision and serve as role models for highly ethical behavior. They instill admiration, respect and trust in their team members and influence others to want to emulate their leadership. They set ambitious goals and lead others on the journey. And they address obstacles but do not focus on barriers to success.

Inspirational Motivation

Leaders must instill confidence, belief in the cause, and high expectations for followers. They provide meaning to the challenge and build a sense of hope and accomplishment in team members. They set high standards, communicate optimism about reaching goals, and make the vision understandable, precise, powerful and engaging. The team moves forward with a strong sense of purpose.

Individual Consideration

Leaders know their team members, coach and mentor them, and provide opportunities for them to meet their personal goals. The most successful leaders listen to the needs of team members and consider other points of view in decision-making. These leaders must be able to recognize what motivates each team member and provide opportunities for people to grow and become fulfilled in their positions.

Intellectual Stimulation

Leaders value and encourage innovation and creativity, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving. They stimulate team members by questioning assumptions, reframing problems and approaching old situations in new ways. They nurture and develop people. Team members are actively involved in the decision-making process.

The transformative leadership model is well-suited for social workers leading individual, community, organizational and societal change. People admire leaders who awaken their curiosity, challenge them to think and learn, and encourage openness to new, inspiring ideas and alternatives.

They appreciate being encouraged to try new approaches, not being criticized when their ideas differ from the leader’s, and being respected and celebrated for the individual contributions they make to the team.

In essence, social workers are made for transformative leadership.

Contact Angelo McClain at naswceo@socialworkers.org.