When I became a supervisor in the social work field, I was the youngest one on my team. Being in this position, I reached out for resources wherever possible, including reading a lot of materials on social work supervision.
I think part of being a young supervisor is that I adopted a more collaborative versus authoritarian supervisory style, that took into account the perspective of all members on my team, who often had many more years experience than myself.
I wanted to share a few pieces from one of the books that I found helpful as I navigated the new experience of providing supervision in the hopes that it will be useful to others who find themselves with similar feelings to what I described.
The first place to start is to evaluate and be self-aware of your leadership style. Do you know what style you tend towards? If not, read on!
Authoritarian Leadership Style: magnifies the bigger picture and links individual’s work to this bigger picture.
Strengths: ” provides clear direction,” “mobilizes people towards a vision,” “provides clear feedback on what is and is not working.”
Challenges : ” can become overbearing” ” can be dismissed” when the leader is not able to get staff on board with the larger vision or if staff feel that the leader does not “have the knowledge or experience” to support the vision.
Affiliative Leadership Style: “people centered, empathic, creates harmony”
Strengths: Growth in worker’s trust resulting in sharing ideas and innovation, “generates a sense of commitment and of belonging”
Challenges : ” can leave people directionless, tends to lack “enough feedback on poor performance.”
Democratic Leadership Style: “operates from principles of participation and collaboration”
Strengths: Can gain increased collaboration and create strong staff buy-in
Challenges : Can lead to “a sense of lack of direction and leadership” and more practically can lead to the “frustration of endless meetings.”
Coaching Leadership Style: “focuses on individual strengths and traits of workers and invests and grows these for the future”
Strengths: “able to have a high level of delegation” to workers through use of the support of frequent dialogue.
Challenges : The major drawback of this style is the time involved in making this style work.
Most of us feel most comfortable within one of these leadership styles. However, we are stronger and more versatile leaders when we can harness the strengths of each style within various situations and with various staff that may have different leadership needs.
Utilizing emotional intelligence will guide us towards which style is most appropriate for the tasks and persons we encounter as supervisors. For example, a supervisor who is able to blend authoritarian and affiliative leadership style are able to provide their staff with “clear vision and standards” while also showing a “caring and nurturing approach” that builds team committment.
How have you found a leadership style that has created a healthy, supported, and productive team? What experiences as a supervisor helped shape your leadership style? What supervisors have made an impact on you- what did they do to support your work? Write me your thoughts and I would love to share them in a future blog post! Write me below!