Webinar: Mike Webster, Leadership in SW (Repeat)

A vision for social work leadership: Critical conceptual elements


This conceptual paper proposes that ecological systems thinking offers unique perspectives to frame a vision and model for organisational leadership in the profession and wider social service sector.  Leadership actions relate to people, not things, and require purposeful communication skills to achieve desired goals. Skills essential to leadership are—inter alia—the ability to motivate; resolve conflict; create the environment for and lead change; and select, train and develop people.

The author argues that leadership is underpinned by the profession’s ethical codes, expressed through authenticity, spirituality, servant leadership, and personal and professional integrity. The bicultural code of ethics on which professional practice in Aotearoa New Zealand is premised mandates an indigenous leadership perspective. Indigenous thinking connects with organic perceptions of agencies integrating whole systems thinking and complex adaptive approaches.  The paper considers how tensions between ethics, organisational imperatives and the worker might affect the model.  The compatibility of an integrated model emerging from these processes with the effects of the pervasive public sector management revolution is critically evaluated. 

The author sees the purpose of organisational social work leadership as providing a map for the practitioner to make sense of and navigate these intersecting influences.


Mike teaches across a range of under and post-graduate programmes in the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work at the University of Auckland.  The focus of his teaching is organisation and management and its practice application.  

Mike’s professional background includes 20 years as a practitioner and service manager in the Community Probation Service in Auckland.

His research interests centre on social work leadership. His doctoral thesis aims to develop a New Zealand model of social work organisational leadership. 


Audio File and PowerPoint

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