Advancing social work professionalism: Standards for management and leadership in Aotearoa New Zealand


  • Mike Webster University of Auckland
  • David McNabb Unitec Institute of Technology
  • John Darroch



In 2004, management was recognised by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) as one of 13 ‘core purposes’ of the global profession. Taking that recognition as a starting point, this article advances the notion that the pre-eminent function of management in social work organisations is to serve, advocate for and integrate the remaining 12 pur- poses. We further propose that these 12 purposes express the profession’s commitment to human rights and social justice as social work’s distinctive values – that social justice has an organisational dimension. 

Proceeding from that philosophical base, this paper introduces a research project to develop standards for social work management and leadership uniquely designed for Aotearoa New Zealand. The authors suggest that the IFSW core purpose statement informs and underpins the project. Standards developed by the profession in the United States and England are reviewed and elements drawn from those sources assessed for potential application to New Zealand. The concepts of leadership and management are examined to determine whether they are interchangeable terms, while noting that in the two overseas jurisdictions leadership is privileged. The article concludes by way of an introduction to the preliminary findings of the research project for future treatment.

Author Biographies

Mike Webster, University of Auckland

Mike teaches social work organisations and management in the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work at the University of Auckland. He is a registered social worker, and the convenor of the ANZASW managers and leaders interest group. 

David McNabb, Unitec Institute of Technology

David is a registered social worker and a Lecturer in the Department of Social Practice at Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland, where he was formerly Head of Department. He is President of the Council for Social Work Education in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

John Darroch

John is a social work student currently doing his Master’s at Auckland University. He has a passion for issues of social justice and how the social work profession can be a force for change.


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How to Cite

Webster, M., McNabb, D., & Darroch, J. (2015). Advancing social work professionalism: Standards for management and leadership in Aotearoa New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 27(3), 44–56.