The state of aged care in Australia and New Zealand has been described as substandard, neglectful and harmful. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety published an interim report about the unsafe and seemingly uncaring ‘tale of neglect’ in October last year. The report reveals the grim reality of the sector, but doesn’t seem to have inspired any leadership on a national level. Therefore, the call for strong leadership from an aged care facility manager is louder than ever.

Management versus leadership: what’s the difference?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term ‘manage’ was first coined to describe the handling or training of horses and is closely linked to the Italian maneggiare, which means to handle, touch, and especially control a horse. ‘Lead’ origins from the old English ‘lædan’ and was used to express the marching at the head and show the way. The origins of these words still do a great job of capturing the difference today.

  • Do you find yourself asking your staff to cooperate and controlling them daily? That’s a clear indicator you are managing your team.
  • Do you inspire your team to do the right things and find you are trusting them that they did so? Congratulations, you are showing signs of a true leader.

How can an aged care facility manager start showing strong leadership?

Over the past twenty-five years we have visited hundreds of facilities. Unfortunately, most of those facilities are led by managers who have slipped into the common pitfall of doing everything themselves. The leaders who stand out are those who have invested in building up their leadership repertoire to direct and lead their team forward.

Once you commit to becoming a better or stronger leader, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime quest of learning. You will probably find yourself studying the seemingly never-ending resources of books, podcasts, TED talks and YouTube videos on how to improve your leadership skills.

The abundance of leadership development resources can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. What topics do you start working on first? Leaders from around the world could probably spend days arguing on that topic. Yet, many great thought leaders, like Simon Sinek, claim your key responsibility as a leader is to create an environment in which all team members feel safe.

Simon Sinek explains why good leaders make you feel safe

We couldn’t agree with Simon more, especially when you are leading an aged care facility. Why? In aged care facilities, the mental and physical health of your team members is at risk every day. Your team is likely to need to work long hours, face abuse from residents, and with an average influenza vaccination rate of 48%, they are at high risk of getting the flu [1]. How can an aged care facility manager expect to give their best if they don’t set the tone and ensure the environment is as safe as possible for them, and their team? 

How to create a safe environment for your team?

Infectious diseases may be acquired and spread quickly in aged care settings, and your team members are aware of that. Therefore, you must show you are doing everything in your power to prevent outbreaks of infection. Our records show that ensuring thorough handwashing and cleaning of the environment are the two most vital steps with which you can reduce the number of infections by 80%.

Other measurements that contribute to establishing a safe environment are:

  • Respecting and appreciating every team members’ input for improvement.
  • Being honest about your own mistakes and accept that all team members will make mistakes.
  • Scheduling regular audits to determine the safety of your facility and what areas need the most attention.

Other tips to become a better leader

Creating a safe environment for your team is just the beginning of your leadership journey. To help you get started, we’ve highlighted some other essential steps and resources below.

  1. ) Read powerful leadership books like Good to Great, Simply Brilliant, Dare to Lead and Grit.
  2. ) Document your vision of the future and share it with your team.
  3. ) Read our article on infinite leadership.
  4. ) Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest news about developments.

Conclusions

The need for improvement in Australia and New Zealand’s aged care sector is immense. Despite many alarming messages, we have seen little progress. Aged care facility managers have the unique opportunity to lead their teams towards better care. The choice to become an inspiring leader should be followed by the vital first step of creating a safe environment for your team. If you get the environment right and make your team feel safe, the natural reaction for anyone in the team is to use their talents and strengths to make a positive difference for the facility. Once you have established a safe environment, you can further your leadership effectiveness by reading and studying the additional resources in this article.


If you want to become a better aged care manager and leader, but you don’t know where to start, we can help. Bug Control have over twenty-five years of experience in facility management and processes. We can help you around the common pitfalls, making you a better leader faster, and your facility a better place for staff and residents. Contact us right now with your questions and concerns — we would love to help!.

[1]   Lai et al, Influenza vaccine coverage and predictors of vaccination among aged care workers in Sydney Australia (2020), Elsevier.