In one of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety closing statements, Senior Counsel Assisting, Mr. Peter Gray, remarked,

“Inside the Department, officials are focused on policies and procedures being in place, standards being met, timing and formal processes. On the evidence this week, a spirit of inquisitiveness and curiosity appears to be sadly lacking.”

And, how does one generate a ‘spirit of inquisitiveness and curiosity’?

Good leadership is one way.

It’s a human-centric industry, which is why effective leadership is integral. You’re not only dealing with people who need care, you’re dealing with the people who care for the people in care. And just like any other industry, what happens in the leadership areas will be filtered down to the grass roots level of care and, this culture––if rotten––could mean the difference between life and death. And I’m not even being dramatic.

But there are quite role-specific qualities required for a leadership slot in an industry as unique as Aged Care. And it got me thinking, what are the qualities a person would need to excel in to embark on a leadership role in the care sector?

1. Be Adaptable.

Leaders in the care industry, particularly Aged Care––post Royal Commission––will require very specific qualities going forward. One of the most prominent qualities that’ll be called for, that all leadership roles benefit from, quite frankly, is adaptability.

Care roles have always required a flexible nature, the ability to apply various skills to various situations and to be on the ball when shit goes down, sometimes quite literally. But an adaptable nature is going to become even more relevant in the near future for leaders in the Aged Care sector following the Royal Commission. With reforms, new legislation and the massive structural changes to staffing that’ll be required once ratios are addressed, there will be a new kind of flexibility called for. More importantly, it’s going to take really strong leaders to facilitate those changes.

The average profile for a care worker in a management role is someone a bit older, quite experienced and have been in the industry a long time. Of course, for those in the HR know, it’s difficult to change the ways of some with such profiles, and if these team members aren’t in a leadership role already, it can feel like mountains being moved when you’re the one leading them in a new direction. Which brings me to my next essential trait in Aged Care leadership…

2. Have good Communication skills.

Thankfully, care industries are adopting a more progressive structure for leadership these days. There’s still a long way to go in Aged Care, but the new model creeping into other care industries is a less top down chain of command and a more diverse leadership structure, which include many levels of command across the board.

With a leadership structure spread across departments, it essentially means anyone at any level could be called onto consult. Yep, that makes communication vital within all fields. It’s definitely something we found lacking in many of our audits. Not only was there leadership on a more traditional level lacking, but there weren’t enough leadership skills running across the entire chain to maintain the level of communication necessary for an organisation such as Aged Care to run smoothly.

It’s so important that communication is a focus and development in this area be a constant. I would even go so far to say that leadership is communication.

In short, I think the Aged Care sector has the leaders in their midst, they just need to be developed to take the hits and facilitate the developments during the new moon in this highly important sector.

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