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Change and the leadership challenge in housing

The Management Centre

Social housing needs skilled managers and strong leadership to lead others through change and protect its social purpose.

Housing associations have a core social purpose – to support those in need, ensuring strong communities and to do so in a way that empowers individuals to lead healthy, happy, and secure lives. However, we know from working with a number of organisations in the sector, that right now it’s not easy to rise to this challenge.

The Housing and Planning Act, continued economic strains and a growing number of people in need means we are in a period of uncertain times. One thing is definite though: change. There is nothing as constant now as the need for adaptability. For many people working in housing, this could be a daunting prospect. A recent Guardian survey found that while most housing professionals remain dedicated to their roles and organisations, they are also dealing not only with heavy workloads but also under increasing pressure to focus efforts on profit over purpose.

The need for housing associations is unlikely to ever go away, so what are leaders and managers meant to do? Having worked with organisations such as Gateway Housing, Evolve Housing + Support, Housing & Care 21 and others, we know that the answer isn’t ‘do more, but do it for less.’ Rather, we have been supporting managers to develop a leadership culture that enables a flexible and resilient workforce.

Though the following 5 top tips from =mc have been tailored to the housing sector, they’re relevant and transferable to most managers and can help those wanting to improve their leadership in tricky times:

1. Look up and look out

Keep up-to-date with what is a happening in housing and your local area, develop an appetite to learn. Make sure you are not scared to explore what is happening in the external environment. Knowledge is everything, and being up to speed will help you make better decisions.

2. Be change ready

Know that change is coming, and use your know-how to anticipate changes. Help those you manage, by recognising that everyone experiences change differently, so give lots of 1 to 1 attention.

3. Be clear on your purpose

Write down, articulate and keep repeating your team’s purpose. And align everything to that – from strategic planning, to hiring decisions, to project management. Don’t let it get forgotten in the busy times. Help others to focus and prioritise with this purpose in mind.

4. Stay customer focussed

Remember the tenants, residents and communities you support are individuals. Stay focused on their journey with you. Listen to them, ask them questions.

5. Culture of care

Without resilient and engaged staff, the people you manage who keep housing going, the services and support you give simply won’t happen. Use those same listening skills – pay attention to how people are feeling. And when things need to change, ask for their input.

Understanding change is going to happen and is happening now is important. However, being able to lead others through change is a critical skill these days for any manager in housing now.

What’s next?

For more information on how =mc can help you improve your management and leadership skills, contact Yvette Gyles, Director on 020 7978 1516 or email

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Charlotte Scott

About Charlie Scott

Charlie specialises in leadership development, team facilitation and strategy development. Charlie worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. Before joining =mc ten years ago, she created and...