Last summer, I spent my time carrying out a six-week Leadership in Action project with the Catholic Children’s Society and in this brief post, I would like to share my experience, detailing what I learnt and how those crucial six weeks reshaped my views about leadership.
The Catholic Children’s Society is one of the oldest charities, being founded in 1859, within the UK that supports disadvantaged children in a myriad of ways. This support includes providing mental health services to children, operating a crisis fund to immediately support those families facing crises, and providing bereavement support to children. However, the specific focus of my Leadership in Action programme was on the Pathways Post Adoption and Aftercare Service.
This service brings together the past and current situation of the charity by recognising their duty to all those who were placed for adoption and attended their children’s homes through using older documents to reconnect and support those who would like to uncover more about their past. However, since the charity has been around for such a long period of time, the method of storing and inputting data related to the adoption and care of children has long since become outdated and in need of revision in order to boost the efficiency and effectiveness of this service within the charity. This is essentially where my Leadership in Action project begins to take shape.
Before even considering what the appropriate course of action would be to achieve the goal of independently revising the data storage and management system, I was familiarised with other aspects of the charity, which included visiting local schools that the charity worked with and meeting with therapists who went to the local schools, as part of the charity, and provided the necessary care to disadvantaged school children. Learning about and seeing first-hand how and who the charity helps was imperative as it clearly outlined for me the context of the project I would be undertaking – this was crucial in order for me to appreciate the fact that, despite the tedious nature of the task, this was the beginning of something incredibly useful which would have the ability to completely transform someone’s life for the better.
So, the lengthy procedure of first choosing and planning the desired system of data storage and subsequently creating the table, on Microsoft Excel, and inputting all the details from the paper index cards onto a digital database began. There were thousands and thousands of index cards to digitalise and so diligence and attentiveness were key to this Leadership in Action programme, as even a simple spelling error could mean that someone could have been prevented from reuniting with their biological family and consequently, deprived of their right to know and learn about their past. Over the six weeks, I continued to work on digitalising the index cards, occasionally meeting with the CEO of the charity and my supervisor to ensure that the project was on the right track and any queries could be dealt with. By the end of those six weeks, thousands of index cards had been digitalised and transferred onto the new data base. However, the truth is that this was simply a dent in the stack of index cards which were to be transferred – this was simply the beginning and there was still so much left to do. Starting the process of digitalising all the data which was stored on thousands of index cards meant that once this process is completed by the charity, people in the future who are in search of their past and family will be able to receive that information and support much more efficiently and quickly meaning that the charity can operate their multiple functions without any extra obstacles slowing their work down. This was the very fact which taught me the most valuable thing about leadership.
Leadership is not always loud. Sometimes leadership means taking the lead, having initiative, and an ambition to start something that will eventually, whether that be 1 week or 1 year, change the lives of others for the better, even if that means that you do not see the fruits of your hard work and efforts immediately. Being a leader extends beyond simply commanding and ordering others, it means being patient, resilient and considerate enough to put effort in even where it may not immediately be recognised because you care enough about the cause and long-term outcome.
I would like to end the post by thanking the staff at the LSE working on the Laidlaw programme and the Catholic Children’s Society for making it possible for me to carry out my Leadership in Action project and giving me the opportunity to view leadership from a new lens.