Transformative Supervision: Book Review

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.

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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!

 

 

Know Thyself

Before I became interested in social work, I was a philosophy major. I was drawn to people who thought deeply about the world and themselves.

I was drawn to social work, not only because it was an active way for me  to be a part of making the world closer to the full potential I see, but also because social work is a profession (much like philosophy) that has a value of knowing deeply. In the Code of Ethics, we are held to a standard of knowing our work deeply- the value of competence. But just as important, we are called to know ourselves deeply and continue to examine our motives, bias, reactions, and internal states. Cue Socrates (but hold the hemlock)!

I found a lot of insight through working with my own therapist to understand the root of my anxiety issues (see previous post When Helper’s Need Help) but there is a lot of other ways to engage in self-reflection. As simple as it may sound, one of the most helpful exercises for myself in the past year was the Enneagram personality test. I actually completed the test and discussed it within the context of therapy.

It provided many insights about myself and the relationships that surrounded me, but mostly it acted as a catalyst to take time to examine myself.

Each Enneagram type is attached to a basic fear and basic desire that tend to drive that type. In the interest of being vulnerable, my Enneagram Type is 4, which indicates the following:

  • Basic Fear: That they have no identity or personal significance
  • Basic Desire: To find themselves and their significance (to create an
    identity)

Upon reflection, I found this to be very true of myself. This wasn’t just helpful for my personal life, but also caused me to reflect how my personality intersects with social work. For example, if my basic desire is to create an identity for myself of significance, am I attempting to do this through my work? If I am attempting to “create” myself through my work, then how could my focus be on where it really should be- on quality service provision? These are all lines of inquiry that opened after taking time to explore my personality through this outlet.

Interested in exploring the Enneagram?  The best site I have found is at Enneagram Institute

How do you you continue to know yourself and  how has that knowledge changed your work?

Drop me a line.