Develop these 10 leadership skills to become a great Disability Service Manager

by Ben Fisher

While the service offering for people living with a disability are as diverse as the people themselves, there are some common traits amongst those who lead these services. It takes incredibly skilled individuals to take charge of a disability service and we think we have boiled it down to 10 skills that are required to become a great service manager.
1. Communication:
Good communication is the cornerstone to having a successful relationship with your team and the people you are providing services too. Great managers have an outstanding ability to communicate both verbally and non-verbally to a vast array of different personality styles and types. Communicating your message clearly and directly, makes sure that you have made the mutual understanding required to succeed in achieving your goals.
2. Emotional Intelligence:
As a manager, you must deal with a myriad of different, often stressful situations. Knowing yourself and “Checking-in” is important to ensure you are not clouding your decision making with your own anger, frustration, anxiety or boredom. Great managers maintain a high degree of self-control and remain calm and assertive in every situation. 
3. Organisation:
“Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail”- Benjamin Franklin. We forget that to move forward, often we need to take a step back. By organising your tasks into key milestones, you can ensure that while you may need to put out some spot fires, you can get back on track. A great manager always has a plan that they can return to and have allocated their time well to the things that need the most of their time and energy.
4. Remain Connected:
As service providers, it is vital that we do exactly that – provide care. It is important to stay current with your skills and connect with the people that your team are providing a service for. Great managers ensure they remain connected to their service and join their support people in the field, even for a couple of hours. This will reinvigorate your passion for the field and gives you a chance to see firsthand the results of your hard work and that of your team.
5. Be Ethical:
Regardless of what happens within the industry, whether it be industrial reform, government intervention or the growth of technology; the core of the disability sector remains – the people. Disability managers need to be able to understand that the behaviour and decisions that are made on a daily basis, affects a human life. Great managers maintain the strongest of ethical standards and understands the human rights principle that can never be crossed. 
6. Patience:
This is not just the ability to simply wait for things to happen, it is an ability to understand that there are forces at work that are out of your control. Great managers understand that patience is more than just waiting, it is an investment of your most important commodity…..your time.
7. Continue to Learn:
With the emergence of technology and the ability to share information on a global scale, makes it important to adopt a philosophy of life long learning. Great managers know that in order to provide the best possible service, they must remain up to date with the latest knowledge and best practices. 
8. Embrace Change:
“The only constant is change”-Heraclitus. The ability to be flexible and nimble in any sector is an important skill. Change is inevitable, and the Disability service sector is no exception. Whether it is a new funding initiative such as the NDIS and/or the emergence of new practices, a great manager knows to ride the changing tide. 
9. Build and maintain relationships:
By nurturing relationships with the people around us, we can ensure that we remain in an environment that is supportive, understanding and enjoyable. Great managers know how to build and maintain relationships with their organisation, the support team, families, carers and, most importantly, the people that are living with disability. 
10. Know your team
The journey that people experience in the disability sector is important, having the knowledge and skills to build upon your team’s strength and skills are an important aspect of what makes a great team. Great managers understand the journey that people with disabilities have taken and the pathway ahead, this in turn assists them to support their team to provide the best possible service available to these individuals.
Let us know your there anything else you'd add to the list? Any of skills, knowledge, characteristics or qualities that should be included? Post or message us on our Facebook page, we'd love to hear from you.
And if you'd like to further your career in leadership in disability or another community service organisation, be sure to check out our Advanced Diploma of Community Sector Management (also known as the Certificate 6 in Disability by many). Our Course Advisors are also available to answer your questions and help you decide if this qualification would be suitable for you and your career direction. Contact a Course Advisor today on 1300 275 282, live chat with them here on our website or email them at

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