I don’t profess to be an expert on the subject of leadership but am happy to share some of my experiences from the perspective of someone who has had the good fortune to hold several leadership positions; both at executive and non-executive director level.

I am a big fan of empowered working cultures and truly believe that organisations need ‘leaders at all levels’.

Over recent years, with the emphasis on austerity and the resulting public service funding crisis, social care has become an industry that in many cases has lost the focus on the person requiring care and support.  Time and tasks have become the order of the day with often stressed, low paid workers following a schedule and a set of rules that have more in common with a manufacturing production line.

Power needs to be felt within local communities where one of the most intimate of transactions is delivered by people who are trusted to do a great job.  To this end our new strategy at Mencap is based on introducing an innovative model based on several principles; one of which is listening to those who are best placed to make decisions.

If you work on the premise that people who want to work in the social care sector are motivated by making a positive difference.  If you recruit for values and attitude and you then provide an environment where colleagues are genuinely trusted and empowered to do a great job – you will find that amazing things happen.

This is what I call ‘leadership at all levels’.  The word ‘leader’ suggests that in order to be one you must have ‘followers’.  I prefer to work in a culture that supports and creates leaders at all levels.  You can be a leader whatever your job title, whatever your job. Traditional career progression involves climbing a ladder – I prefer to think of career progression as developing as a person and developing others as you learn and grow.

Most importantly we can see the difference this way of working has made to the lives of the people we support, and that’s what this is all about.

My tips re leadership are borne from many years of making mistakes and from a never-ending commitment to learning – some people in positions of power act as if they have nothing to learn – they know it all – they don’t need to listen – their opinion is always the right one and they can never make a mistake.  In my view this is the opposite of good leadership.

Remember you are a role model whether you want to be or not – people watch how you behave and listen to what you say – don’t let them down.

Our thanks to Edel Harris for this blog, one of our contributors in our Agency, Power and Purpose community event,  supported by Kaleidoscope, Project Lift’s Community partners. Find out more about our community events past and present