It is always an honour and a privilege to receive an invitation to attend a leadership workshop, especially if it comes from a company you admire.  I received a recent invite from the senior managers of Thera East Anglia, a company who support adults with a learning disability.  They had organised a day for their first line supervisors (Senior Support Workers). 

A scenic journey through country lanes took me to a village near Ely in Cambridgeshire.  I was uplifted by the countryside and very much looking forward to the day. 

Sitting down at a table with Laura, Sandra, and Jo – who are Senior Support Workers,  I was quickly engaged with their insights on leadership, enjoying hearing their ‘take’ on effective leadership and being a role model for their colleagues. 

The day focused on getting back to basics, having honest conversations about their role, the competencies required and how it impacts on their colleagues and the people they support (people with a learning disability).

5 things I got from the day & 1 Takeaway

  1. Hearing first-hand what challenges and what frustrates people.
  2. What inspires people to do more and be more for the people they support.  What was clearly evident from the conversations is that they are passionate about people with a learning disability.
  3. The importance of role models and role modelling – a key aspect of the role of Senior Support Worker is that they are role models for their colleagues.  The conversation focused on leading by example.
  4. Empowered to be able to lead (inspiring support workers) but also feeling able to offer supportive words, and to point people in the right direction.
  5. Putting aside time in everyone’s busy work schedule to invest in colleagues’ leadership & development.

And 1 Take Away from Justin Smith Operations Manager for Thera East Anglia:

‘Anyone can lead when the plan is working’

Read Justin’s blog here

5 Enduring Leadership Questions (heard during the day).

With a quick-fire answer from me:

  1. What is the difference between a Leader and a Manager?

A. Managers make decisions – Leaders do the right things

  • Are you born to be a leader, or do you learn to become one?

A. You become – and everyone is a leader in some shape or form

  • Does it matter what your social background is to be an effective leader that your followers can relate to?

A.  from experience in both careers NO!  all that matters to people is that you genuinely care for them.

  • Do you have to have served on the ‘shop floor’ to understand the issues staff have?

A.  It helps to have had a similar experience, especially when it comes to making decisions.

  • Do Leaders need to be extroverts? – during the workshops I had an opportunity to discuss this with Justin Smith and Yvette Ferguson the two senior managers who kindly invited me to their ‘day’. 

A. I was reminded of an article by a friend and former colleague:  David Sandell wrote: ‘Charisma isn’t always enough’Charisma isn’t always enough – Leadership in the Raw    David is a successful businessman and an internationally recognised artist. 

5 Leadership MythBusters

  1. As the leader you don’t always have to the person inspiring – seek out people who will inspire you.  They do this with their thoughts, ideas, and actions.  You just need to listen.   
  2. You don’t have to be the one with all the ideas – if you surround yourself with talent, it is highly likely your colleagues’ ideas will soon outnumber yours.  I see this as a sign of success in the teams I have managed.   

Related:  The 3rd Leadership Lesson I learned – Surround yourself with Talent – Leadership in the Raw

  • Management and Leadership is not the same thing.  This was one of the questions during the leadership day and a specific question: what is the difference?  The words “leader” and “manager” are used interchangeably, but the two functions are distinct.  Managers set and enforce rules and control a group in order to accomplish defined goals.  Both roles are necessary. The key is to strike the right balance. 
  • Leaders are not infallible.  It’s easy to see leaders as infallible. However, not only does everyone make mistakes, but those errors help us learn and grow. 
  • Leadership is not about titles!  Leaders are often people who influence and inspire their colleagues, not necessarily the ones who hold positions of authority. My youngest daughter Bettina copes with a learning disability and autism is a leader, she has changed so many people’s lives and their outlook on life while not holding a position of authority through a job title:  

On my long journey home, I had time to reflect on a day surrounded by 20 leaders, feeling fortunate to have had this time to hear what motivates and drives them to do what they do for people with a learning disability and….once more realising that you don’t always have to be the one inspiring.

The venue for our leadership day – The Glebe is located next door to St Andrews Church, High Street, Sutton near Ely

Thera East Anglia can be found on the following platforms:


Twitter:           Thera East Anglia (@TheraEastAnglia) / Twitter

Facebook:           thera east anglia – search results | Facebook

LinkedIn              THERA EAST ANGLIA: About | LinkedIn