Bettina at work
Bettina at work

From a very early age I have often found myself in leadership positions. When I think about it, I suppose it started when I was 6 or 7! I had my own gang and I also managed my own football team from the age of 13 (it was the only way I was ever going to get a game!).  It was not until I joined the Army, entering a Junior Leaders Battalion in 1972 just after my 16th birthday, that I started thinking about leadership and what kind of leader I wanted to be – after all we were constantly been told by our instructors we were the army’s future NCO’s (Non Commissioned Officers).  I wanted to be ‘significant’ I wanted my leadership and my life to count for something, but without really thinking about how I would ensure my leadership would have significance.

I have been incredibly lucky (and continue to be!) to have been associated with, and work for, leaders who are significant.  However, when it comes to significance and what being significant actually means, I cannot think of a better role model than my daughter Bettina!  Bettina is significant in all aspects of her life.  How?

  • Bettina is a symbol for good – you could say she has her own ‘brand’. People who know her see her as a source of inspiration.  She is a symbol for positivity and kindness, facing adversity every day because of her autism, learning disabilities and her complex communication issues – she continues to smile at the world – and the world smiles back.
  • Bettina’s life has meaning – The way Bettina has led her life has influenced people’s attitudes about autism and learning disabilities. People tell me that Bettina helps them get their life into perspective.
  • Her work and life is important – Bettina has always been a trail blazer. She was one of the first children at her school with autism and complex needs but who did not attend an autism-specific school which meant the local authority had to think outside the box, and so they built an Autism Resource Base to support the children; she was one of the first people in Essex to have an Individual Budget (so Bettina decides who and how she will be supported) with her own Individual Budget Support Plan (got to be one of the best plan’s ever!!) which is much copied and has been used as a source of inspiration for other parents and care professionals;  what she has taught others about her autism has been used in training workshops for the benefit of others and as there was nothing of substance in Colchester in the early 1990s, my wife( Joyce) started a Support Group which evolved into a Carers Centre and I started a second career in Social Care in 1996 all because of Bettina.
  • Her Work is Valued –Bettina’s work benefits others and is highly valued whether it is coaching others with her Tai-Chi skills; cooking (her cakes are sublime); pottery most of which decorates our garden, or her strong work ethic at a local Garden Centre.

I recently came across a YouTube video from Bettina’s school (Market Field School in Elmstead Market near Colchester in the UK) Bettina went there as a 5 year old leaving at 16 years of age.  In the video the Head Teacher Gary Smith talks about the school moving to new premises and reflects on his memories before the current building is closed.  We were overjoyed as a family to hear that one of those memories was of Bettina and what that memory meant to him.  Bettina left the school 12 years ago!  The memory had significance and what she had done had made an impact.  Here is the link:

Bettina’s 5 Rules of Significance – What marks out a Significant Leader?

  1. You have made a difference in another person’s life
  2. Your work and the way you live your life influences other peoples thinking for the better
  3. People quote and reference your work
  4. You have referability
  5. People remember you long after you have left. Your work leaves an enduring legacy which people coming through can benefit from

This is the checklist I will continue to use.  I will monitor and evaluate my level of significance as a leader.  I will do this at least once a week, preferably on a Sunday afternoon before I start again with the coming week – after all you are only as good as your last race.

Thanks Bettina yet again you significantly change the way I lead my life.