Professional leadership in mental health social work


  • Peter Matthewson Teaches in the social work programme at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology. Has 25 years’ experience in social work practice, in statutory, health and NGO agencies.


professional leadership, mental health, mental health social work, management,


Recent decades have seen significant changes in the political context and the management and supervisory framework in which social work is practised, particularly in public health and statutory agencies. In this context new roles which can be broadly identified as professional leadership, as distinct from management, have developed. This article examines one professional leadership role, in mental health within a New Zealand district health board. A qualitative study of the experiences and perceptions of incumbents of this role was conducted. Participants experienced significant ambiguity in the role, however this could be experienced as opportunity for initiative and creativity in identifying and addressing professional needs. Although formal power is limited by not being in line management, there is opportunity for the exercise of expert power and informal strategic influence.


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How to Cite

Matthewson, P. (2022). Professional leadership in mental health social work. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 19(3), 38–47. Retrieved from