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In leadership and management, top-down is not the answer

By guest blogger JOHN BURTON

In terms of leadership and management our government is not setting a good example. Their record so far is simply out of touch with what is really happening and what is really needed. They “follow the science” until it doesn’t suit them. They blame anyone but themselves if what they have decreed doesn’t happen. They have no clear plan or direction. They throw (our) money about but have little control over whether they (we) get value for it. They favour their pals and the big providers, and ignore people and organisations that have a solid track record and know what they’re doing. Their motto is do as we say, not as we do. They bully, bluster and boast. They wag their fingers, look down their noses, brag about world-class this and that when it’s quite clear to everyone that their claims are empty and dishonest.

They don’t take people with them. Test and trace isn’t working in spite of being “world-class”, and the “protective ring” around care homes is a lie. But in spite of all this top-down government mismanagement, both hospitals and care homes have been finding ways to change how they do things to protect their patients, residents and workforce. This has been achieved by the people actually doing the job who can see a better way of doing it. New ways of working include on-the-spot analysis and innovation, learning and co-operation, accountable self-authorisation and the willingness to go against stupid orders from on high.

I have found it very encouraging that so many brave social care managers and leaders have been prepared to expose the failures of government and to make their own decisions.

So, again, in terms of leadership and management, what can we learn from our government’s failure and the successes of numerous frontline people, teams and organisations?

• Study what’s actually happening and think about how this is part of a bigger picture.

• Involve everyone and listen to people’s experience and ideas.

• Think local first and then widen your horizons and share with other organisations.

• Speak out, stand up for your residents and patients, your team and yourself. Be prepared to be different. (And, by the way, this doesn’t have to take six months. Sometimes it’s a morning’s work and sometimes a fortnight’s, but don’t hang around.)

When we eventually come out of this phase of Covid 19, please let social care build on the advances in leadership, management and practice that some organisations have brought about. Do not let us simply revert to the top-down, bureaucratic, out-of-touch management that has failed us so tragically in this crisis, and will do so again if we allow it to happen.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

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