Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) play a critical role within the higher education setting. They ensure the safety of every student, staff, and visitor within their institution, making complex decisions about potential risks, and responding appropriately to concerns. This often involves working in collaboration with governance teams, which can bring its own challenges. This blog will delve into the essential leadership skills that DSLs need to develop to succeed in this role.
1. Communication Skills
Communication is a foundational skill for DSLs. You need to be able to listen, interpret, and articulate complex issues related to safeguarding effectively. This involves communicating with a variety of stakeholders including students, staff, parents, external safeguarding agencies, and governance teams. Effective communication also involves translating technical and legal safeguarding terms into understandable language for all stakeholders.
2. Collaborative Leadership
Working as a DSL requires collaboration across various teams, including the governance team. You’ll need to exercise collaborative leadership, emphasising cooperation, team-building, and a shared mission. Collaborative leaders can foster an environment of mutual respect, where every team member feels valued and heard, leading to better decision-making and enhanced safeguarding processes.
3. Emotional Intelligence
DSLs often deal with challenging and sensitive situations. Therefore, high levels of emotional intelligence are necessary for understanding and navigating the emotional landscape of the individuals involved, as well as managing your own reactions. This includes empathy, emotional self-awareness, and the ability to regulate your own emotions under pressure.
4. Ethical Decision-Making
In the complex world of safeguarding, DSLs must often make difficult decisions, sometimes with incomplete information. Strong ethical compass and the ability to weigh competing interests are vital. This includes being able to handle confidential information sensitively, and always acting in the best interest of those you are safeguarding.
5. Strategic Thinking
DSLs must be able to think strategically, making plans that align with the institution’s safeguarding policy and the wider legislative context. They also need to be flexible, able to adjust their plans in response to new information or changing circumstances. Strategic thinking is also necessary when working with governance teams, helping to shape institutional policies and practices around safeguarding.
Finally, resilience is key. DSLs often work under significant pressure, dealing with challenging and potentially distressing situations. The ability to bounce back from adversity, maintain a positive outlook, and continue to work effectively is crucial.
DSLs should be strong advocates for the people they are protecting. This requires courage, determination, and a deep understanding of the legal and institutional framework within which they are operating. Effective advocacy can help to ensure that safeguarding concerns are taken seriously and addressed appropriately at all levels of the institution.
In summary, effective DSL leadership in higher education requires a blend of skills including effective communication, collaborative leadership, emotional intelligence, ethical decision-making, strategic thinking, resilience, and advocacy. By developing these skills, DSLs can lead their teams effectively, work productively with governance teams, and ensure that their institution provides a safe and supportive environment for everyone.
As with any role, continuous professional development is important. Regular training, reflective practice, and seeking feedback can help DSLs to develop these skills and become more effective in their role. Remember, safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility, but as a DSL, you have a pivotal role to play in leading and shaping this important aspect of institutional life.
And you don’t have to do it alone, the Safeguarding Leaders Hub is always here to support you. Let’s have a conversation if you’d like to know more about the support available to you
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Safeguarding Practitioners Ltd & Kate Flounders disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.