Assessing the Leadership and Management Skills of Senior VA Social Work Leaders by Internal Stakeholders
Assessing the Leadership and Management Skills ofSenior VA Social Work Leaders by Internal StakeholdersKristin Shanahan Day, Ph.DKarlynn BrintzenhofeSzoc, Ph.DLeading experts in the field of social work advocate that social workers become expert leaders and managers able to bring business acumen, congruent with social work values to the human service industry (Brilliant, 1986; Edwards, Cooke, & Reid, 1996; Franklin, 2001; Patti 2003; Rank & Hutchinson, 2000). Yet, no leadership or management content is required for Council on Social Work Education accreditation (2010); thus the adequacy of preparation for social work executives may be questioned. The purpose of this study is to explore the actual and preferred levels of leadership and management skills of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) social work executives, as reported by the medical center director, the chief of staff, the social work executives and their social work subordinates. Specifically, are VA social work executives meeting the leadership and management expectations of their key internal stakeholders? This study used the VA's High Performance Development Model (HPDM) 360 Degree Assessment Scale to assess perceived levels of actual and preferred management and leadership competencies. An independent t-test was used to explore the level of preferred management skills by subscale; each subscale, systems thinking, technical skills, and flexibility/adaptability, was statistically significant in terms of differences in mean scores. For all three subscales, the medical center directors and the chiefs of staff mean scores for preferred level of management skills were significantly higher than for the social work executives and the social workers mean scores for preferred level of management skills. An independent t-test was used to consider the subscales comprising leadership skills; three subscales, customer service, personal mastery and organizational stewardship, were found to be statistically significant in terms of differences in mean scores between the two groups. Medical center directors and the chiefs of staff preferred higher levels of management and leadership skills than both the social work executives and the social workers. This is a call to action for the social work program at VHA. This study provides empirical support for the infusion of business and leadership theory and practice into social work education and practice.
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