For many, perhaps a majority of youth work managers, their careers began as face-toface workers, with management responsibilities being acquired as a necessary but not always welcome part of progression up the career ladder. However, in the main these responsibilities are acquired with little formal training or education on the ‘theory’ of management, beyond what they may have studied many years previously on a qualifying course (Bracy, 2007). As with all fields of practice, the theory which is applicable to managing in a youth work context is by no means stable or settled, but continually subject to change and controversy. At a time when strengthening leadership and management has become increasingly utilized as a strategy for raising standards in public services, including youth work (DfES 2002; DfCSF, 2007), it is important for practitioners to maintain a critical awareness of the ideas and assumptions which underpin these strategies so that they can make informed decisions about appropriate management practices rather than responding to the whim of the dominant management discourse. This chapter aims to do two things: first to outline the main theoretical approaches

which underpin current discourses of management in youth work, providing the language through which we attempt to understand and explain management practices; and second to take a step back from these explanations and to ask more fundamental questions about the position and role which management has achieved in recent times, and what effects this has had on current practices of youth work.