Social work students planning on a leadership concentration understand that the core values of this profession represent the bedrock qualities of strong leaders. There is a prevailing sense among the public that social work is all about service to others, which it is although there is an entire spectrum of functions and competencies in social work that are often taken for granted or overlooked.
Social Work Competencies and Core Values
The field of social work is not for everyone. Service to others is the overarching requirement, and one must be prepared to serve while ensuring the dignity and self-worth of other people. Social workers must serve with integrity, promote the values of positive human relations and understand the principles of social justice. These are the core values of social work. These values are integral to the development of effective and successful leaders. That said, social workers may be called to lead from the front line as policymakers and activists, but they are just as effective working in the background as part of a team.
Finding a Leadership Focus as a Social Work Student
• Define a career path that accounts for frontline leadership as well as team player.
Each student’s path will be different from the next, depending on one’s preferences and personality traits. Some people may prefer to be highly visible, working as social policy activists. For this career track, students must prepare for public speaking, participating in debate and discussion panels and presenting to audiences of any size. It is also crucial to stay informed of current issues and advocacies and to be prepared to discuss a wide range of issues passionately but with logic and objective skills.
•Develop forward-thinking strategies.
Social workers are often called on in emergency situations to serve as grief counselors, crisis interventionists and behavioral therapists. It is easy to be caught up in short-term solutions, but understand that social work does not intend to be a knee-jerk solution. Examine every case and every situation with a view to developing positive and permanent solutions.
• Learn to lead from both ends.
It is tempting to view leadership as a position of power and recognition, but learning to be a team player is equally important. The structure of most social work curricula focuses on teamwork to emphasize the importance of collaboration, communication and community support. Hone your leadership skills as a team player to develop a clear understanding of the tasks required of each team member.
• Building effective teams.
Social work is collaborative work. Team members need to have a clear understanding of goals and expectations to work effectively for the best results for clients, constituents and the agency represented by social workers. Instead of focusing on finding quick fixes, social work should focus on identifying long-term solutions especially for persistent challenges.
Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master of Social Work Online (MSW) Degrees
Social workers are capable of serving as mediators in conflict situations, providing guidance during a crisis, advocating for clients’ benefits, advocating for changes in social policies and identifying all the resources that can be tapped for the benefit of the community. These are values and skills that every leader should develop. Social work students who expect to pursue a leadership concentration should take the time to explore these values and to understand how these qualities can become part of building a stable and rewarding career path.