The markers of leadership come in many forms. How we work, what we achieve and learn on the journey shapes the kind of leader we become.
A woman is assaulted in her home. A dreadful experience. A cohealth care coordinator is assigned to her case. Together they face resistance and unwillingness from the client’s community to deal with the issue of a woman being assaulted. They persist. Although traumatised the client realises that this is important — that she must see it through. The care coordinator must negotiate a range of cultural and social issues that are fuelling resistance — doubt, uncertainty and fear.
Eventually, they get a breakthrough. Members of the client’s community are supported to come together and listen to her story; then they share their thoughts and experiences with one another. Understanding grows. Acceptance begins to emerge that they all have a responsibility for preventing these incidents rather than turning a blind eye to the abuse of others, particularly women, in their community.
It takes courage to stand against the crowd for what you know is right. It takes respect for people to bring them along with you, when facing up to uncomfortable issues is the last thing they want to do.
It takes patience and persistence to achieve, little by little – one person, one group, one community at a time — the goal of mutual understanding and social equity.
Our work with service users does not happen in isolation. In the background are coworkers and managers without whom we as individuals could not do our work. At times we all need support and confirmation when we step into challenging and uncertain areas. At other times we need to know we have permission: that our organisation supports the difficult and confronting direction we are taking.
Each of us is a leader when we see a problem that needs to be solved and give it our best shot. We won’t always succeed. To lead is to understand that and to continue on.
One of the jobs of a leader is to help people cross new bridges — to get them comfortable with ‘new ways of being’ and to help them understand how it can make lives better.