After reading the recent Guardian article on ‘Where are social care’s future leaders?’ we thought it worth adding in a point about the importance of personality to the mix of what makes a good leader.
As the Guardian article points out; “too often staff can progress into a leadership role without having specific leadership and people management training.” However, if you think of all the social care managers you know of that have had similar, if not exactly the same, training, why are they not all the same type of leader or people managers?
Every day we come across different styles of leadership; autocratic, consultative, persuasive, democratic, etc. Logically, certain styles suit specific environments better, so there is no definitive right or wrong style, the training someone receives will be used but delivered in a way to suit the situation by the individual leader, which the training theoretically takes into account.
What the training can’t take into account is the effect the leader’s personality plays on their ability to deliver or consistently sustain the required leadership or management style, which is where it comes unstuck, for the leader and the organisation they work for.
Traditionally we have been encouraged to emulate other successful leaders. And on the surface it makes sense. If it worked for one person, it will work for another. But no two people are the same so copying is not the answer. The rules of effective leadership or management don’t change, just the people applying them.
For example, looking at some of the traits identified as impacting on an individual’s effectiveness as a leader such as empathy, communication style, planning ability, resource management, influencing skills, etc. Everyone has all of them but to differing degrees and abilities. Some can be taught but some very important ones are driven by their own natural preferences and behaviours.
As a crude example, try switching hands when writing. With lots of practise you can probably swap hands to a reasonable degree and become legible but it will never feel natural and you will want to revert back to what is. The same happens every day when someone is forcing themselves to take on a task which is not their natural style.
It is extremely important that the management style required fits with the personality of the leader who has to deliver it, or they will soon revert back to their natural preferences which may not suit and greatly undermine their effectiveness.
Successful employers do not hire based on the CV, they want to meet and asses the individual and more often than not are comparting them to someone who is already successful in the role. And what are they assessing but the candidates personality traits, which will have such an impact on their suitability for the role.
The importance of this was borne out during the recent Department of Health pilot project involving Profiles4Care and 100 individual care provision organisations. Initially targeted at recruitment of frontline workers, employers in the pilot project started to use the profiling tool in a variety of other ways, including identifying potential leaders from amongst existing staff.
As they were happy to admit, the personality report they received on an individual saved them a lot of time and effort in the interview and selection process by automating, for want of a better word, what they spent hours in interviews assessing.
So if you are looking to hire effective leaders it’s not just about training, it’s also very much about ‘who’ you are training.