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Navigating the Nuances of Leadership Development for Future DASSs

by Shannon Walsh


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Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting a webinar that explored the intricate details of leadership development for future Directors of Adult Social Services (DASS). The event was a roundtable session filled with insights, experiences, and shared wisdom from seasoned leaders in the field. 

Vik Mistry, leading the discussion as the Interim Adult Social Care and Health Lead within Tile Hill’s Interim People Directorate, set the stage for an evening of exploration into the world of DASS leadership. Alongside him were Nik Shah, Associate Director in Interim, responsible for Children and Adult Social Care, Education and Health, and Helen Alwell, a Senior Consultant in the Search Team, focusing on permanent roles in the sector.

We had the special participation of Richard Webb, DASS in North Yorkshire, and Jenny Wood, DASS and DCEO in Solihull. Both Richard and Jenny shared their personal journeys and experiences, offering valuable insights into the challenges they encountered on their journey to becoming DASS and navigating the intricate landscape of Adult Social Care.

Throughout the session, our speakers delved into a variety of compelling topics, encompassing the future of Adult Social Care, media exposure, integrated care, and more. Here are the main key takeaways from the webinar:

Building Strong Partnerships  

The speakers emphasised the importance of proactively building relationships with politicians, media, and partners across different sectors. Plus, Richard highlighted the need to be visible in the community from day one, actively engaging with local journalists to gain insights into their perspectives. The collaborative nature of social care work is a cornerstone for success.

Preparing for the Unexpected

Media can be used to both share positive stories and manage negative coverage. Needless to say, consulting communications experts is advised. Plus, directors must practice answering difficult questions and have 2-3 clear key messages prepared. Learning from past experiences with crises and roleplaying worst-case scenarios with comms teams helps build confidence and can be a great strategy.

Upholding High Standards  

Directors, known as "standard bearers “, in Adult Social Services, face the challenge of maintaining elevated standards during financial constraints. Their influence extends to both daily operations and the establishment of robust decision-making processes. Clear audit trails are essential for transparency and accountability, ensuring standards are not only met but exceeded. Leading by example is paramount, as directors, embodying set values, cultivate a culture of excellence. In times of financial strain, directors' ability to uphold high standards serves as a guiding light, reinforcing unwavering commitment to excellence.

Prioritising Self-Care and Resilience

In the demanding roles of leadership in Adult Social Services, directors need to strike a balance, steering clear of being constantly available, especially during busy periods. Resilience is a key asset, necessary not only to tackle challenges but also to face criticism from unfriendly quarters. Directors often lean on the expertise of trusted legal and communications advisors to reinforce their ability to navigate the complexities of their roles. Thus, prioritising self-care is not just about personal well-being but also a strategic move to enhance leadership effectiveness amid multifaceted challenges.

Carefully Considering Employers

The changing political and media landscapes emphasise carefully analysing an employer's alignment with one's values and approach before taking on a leadership role.

These key insights collectively form a comprehensive guide for aspiring leaders in the field of Adult Social Services. The webinar went beyond mere information delivery, offering a profound look into the essence of effective leadership through the lenses of experience, collaboration, and resilience.

A heartfelt thank you to our speakers and all participants who joined us in this enlightening session! If you’d like to learn more about Adult Social Services, contact our team today. 

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