Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Strong Leadership for MCFD #1 / Part 201 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/
The importance of Good Leadership in British Columbia's Ministry of Children and Family Development - Part 1 of 2
Organizations that are managed by regulatory frameworks like MCFD don’t work well without strong leadership. Does the MCFD have strong leadership? Most will say, yes of course. “Strong” should not be understood exclusively in terms of training, experience, authority and decision making power. We have a deputy minister, and regional directors who are strong in that fundamental sense. “Strong” must be defined with significantly different qualities as well in order to make an organization framed like the MCFD to become a stellar performer. For this, 'strong' becomes synonymous with 'good'.
I have led a national organization with distinct provincial district entities and I know about governance and structure, cooperation and outcomes. I have heard social workers speaking about reform to MCFD and decrying present practices and leadership.
Good organizational leadership will not ignore or minimize the importance of staff beliefs and values or they risk implementation problems. How are we doing? Strong/good leadership is eager to hear and act upon staff opinions and suggestions. If staff realize their views do not matter, then implementation becomes lethargic; at worst, staff undermines or sabotages the policy or program. A strong/good leader has the ability to motivate others and to inspire confidence. How are we doing?
Strong leaders acquire influence by telling the truth, by exhibiting passion, by fostering idealism and by affording opportunities for action. Strong leaders are good leaders. Truth-telling can serve as a wake up call to everyone in the MCFD. I'm not saying leaders are untruthful .... Just follow this logic. Up and down the chain of command, truth telling is a barometer of the organization's health. How healthy is the MCFD right now? Passion is the raw energy of leadership and without passion it is impossible to overcome challenging obstacles. A certain passion exists in the Deputy Minister's office to affect the transformation goals she envisions. I have no information one way or another to determine whether similar passion can be found in the regional offices. Further, when speaking of passion it is critical to note that idealism keeps this passion pure. Without idealism, passion can focus on wrong priorities or objectives and become destructive. Misplaced objectives are self protection, covering tails after questionable decisions, winning court cases at any cost. Good leaders not only act but they also motivate others to act. Good leaders are not out exclusively to develop a laudable reputation for themselves as charismatic leaders without whom the organization fails. Rather, good leaders encourage and motivate others to take initiative because that freedom energizes the organization.
Such energy leads to creativity that is free. It is in house. Essential and invaluable creative energy could be gained within MCFD internal community collaborations and in unit or office cohesion groups. But it is so hard within a regulatory (restrictive) framework to grow a learning organization. If top management will endorse them rather than punish them, empowered groups will produce creativity and a culture of learning and professional development themselves. Social workers want to be effective in their work and satisfied that they have genuinely helped children, parents and families. Learning organizations make a consistent effort to become better at achieving their mission, and 'better' will be good for all of us.