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Jennifer James Leadership Testimonial

I was catching up through my e-mails at work when, an e-mail from the Equality and Diversity leader for my Job Centre Plus district in South London caught my eye. 

The e-mail apologised for the short notice; however, would I be interested in applying for the Radar Leadership and Empowerment course? 

My first thought was “certainly I am” anything that is going to build my confidence has got to be worth it.  I proceeded to read up on the course requirements and what people had achieved previously.  Then came the doubts as unfortunately I had missed out on a previous course, I felt due to lack of experience.  I therefore telephoned my mentor in life to ask for their advice.  Low and behold their advice was to apply for the Leadership and Empowerment course with a company like Radar it could open up all sorts of doors.  Still hesitant I telephoned David Stocks for more information about the programme and could I have a slight extension on the deadline.  David agreed and stated he was looking forward to reading my application.  After I had waffled on about my past achievements, poor man probably did not have much choice; apparently I can be quite persuasive when the mood takes.

I then spent three days analysing everything as I do, when I am not analysing I am most likely to be worrying about what my application says about me as a person.  I finally completed the application after three days of writing, sent it to my mentor to proof read before sending it off to RADRA.  You would think that the powers that be would make my life simple after the worrying, would you not?  That would be a NO!!! The stupid computer at work would not open the e-mail correctly nor would it send correctly.  There I was in the middle of a busy morning advising my customer at the Job Centre Plus having near palpitations in my heart.  However lucky for me one of my strengths is problem solving.  I contacted my mentor and asked if she would send a copy to David Stocks for me as I was determined to send my application come hell or high water…I would not be held back from this opportunity.  The e-mail to Radar was not working at this point.  I remember being in the Supermarket panicking down the frozen food aisle  I decided to telephone David again for the third or fourth time that day, the new solution was to send the application from my Blackberry to David’s personal e-mail address.  What do you think happened next?  It finally arrived at long last a result from the chaos.  I could breathe once more, that is until I started to worry that I would not get a place on the programme.

They say you always remember the where you were when the big changes in your life happen.  Monday 11th January 2010 I had just finished with a customer was about to take a break when my new mail symbol showed up on the screen.  There it was the e-mail from Radar, this was the moment that could change the course of my life forever!  Without a moment’s hesitation I had to open that e-mail, patience has never been my strong suit, I cannot stand it when you are waiting for information, the person holding it in their hands debating opening the letter.  Like a plaster it should be firm ripped neatly of course open.  I pressed the open button and skimmed through the letter.  My mouth dropping open at my desk while controlling the impulse to squeal and jump up and down on the spot, as that would be very unprofessional of me.  I did it the crisis with the computers had not failed my dreams this time.  I was on the programme, for the Leadership and Empowerment course for Public Leaders of the Future, one step closer to my fantasy world where I am leading on disability and education rights for individuals within the world.

The first event

One would think that being a potential leader would be like a monologue in a film running through the early mornings and clothing anxieties after you have passed the application should be easy from there!  How I wish after the high of squealing and trying to casually drop it into every conversation you have with the important people yes I mean those important people your friends!  Then comes ‘what on earth’ does one wear, to a leadership event after all you need to look professional while travelling from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly.  Manchester my home city, the place where the journey started with the fresh Northern air and potential to run into people from your past, after all you are the grown up professional London girl now a future leader, no longer a university student unsure of her place in the world. I then decided to order a Shift dress therefore both comfortable and professional plus suites all shapes and sizes; then came the hardest job of all – finding comfortable tights!  You are probably wondering what this has to do with becoming a leader of the future.  The answer would be that dressing for you is the most important thing of all.  A leader has to feel comfortable with who they are while being professional of course.  Any one that watches Bones will understand, Booth a FBI agent has an image to uphold however the Cocky belt buckle allows Booth to be himself.  I personally enjoy dressing up however I love my PJ’s the best, however one could not be taken seriously wearing her favourite summer PJ’s at a seminar for future leaders.

Mission accomplished so far, comfortable dress, tights; I even found a brand new smart coat in the January sales.  The hardest task of all since my teenage years, arrived on the morning of Monday 18th January 2010, getting up out of bed, straightening hair, cleaning teeth, correctly applying clothing to one’s body, at 05:00am, yes that is right 05:00am for the 07:00am train from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly.  A dyslexic nightmare for me is misjudging travel time, most likely to bring on a mental panic, leading to stress-induced flame red cheeks, that no make-up on this earth can disguise; believe me I have tried.  Fortunately the travel time worked out just right, I managed to catch the 7 am train.  Then I arrived in Manchester and walked to the bus stop where I got chatting to a lovely lady whom it also turned out was going to the Leadership seminar.  Listening to the bus driver, we exited the bus, walked for what seemed like five miles, well more like half a mile, when you have a back that feels like it could break from pressure it feels like a five mile walk.  To find out we were going in the wrong direction, change of direction followed with a cursing of the bus driver.  I then finally arrived at the venue.

Over whelmed by the crowd of people mingling, I sought to find the man in charge.  Mr David Stocks, there he was all calm, composed, directing people.  I went to introduce myself, feeling myself going the dreaded shade of red.  Mr David Stocks, could not have been more charming and welcoming while trying to organise everyone with the fabulous Carina Schmoldt.  I decided to sit at the front as I am hearing impaired, I sat in a chair, clutching my notes like a nervous rabbit with a werewolf sniffing me out for dinner.  I then realised whom I was sat next to Mr Stephen Brooks MBE, now I do get impressed by celebrities, seriously I grew up in footballer land, I used to serve David Beckham his petrol when he lived in the UK, I digress.  Mr Stephen Brookes MBE is a senior journalist whom people look up to guide them on Hate Crime.  A current leader within the United Kingdom, of course the gibbering fool, I am start waffling how it was an honour to meet him.  Give me David Beckham a man considered to be an icon of the century, not a fluster!  Stephen Brookes however I am rambling on that I had recently had a feature published in the RIND: One in Seven magazine would he like a copy to read.  Stephen Brookes is a gracious gentleman, kindly ignoring my rabbit like state, thanked me for the opportunity to read my feature.

Gosh, if this was the start of things to come what would happen next?

Would you believe me if I told you next after some inspirational speeches and stories narrated by Vidar Hjardeng, Asif Iqbal, and not forgetting the eminent Stephen Brookes MBE, came Tony Lidington and his very large ‘Pants man’ underwear armed with a washing line and pegs.  What on earth was one expected to do with a marker pen and a large pair of y-fronts? Goodness knows; in my twenty nine years I had never handled a pair of large Y-fronts.  The incredible idea was for you to write your leadership weakness on your huge white Y-fronts.  Mine of course was the faith in myself to be a leader of the future.

People say to me “You are so confident all the time”; I tell them it is the meds I take while I tend to rattle if shaken with the tragic concoction; I take Happy pills (anti-depressants), anti-teenage skin pills (adult acne), high as a kite pills (pain relief for my spine) not forgetting the pills to settle my stomach due to all the other pills.  I am still working on my own self belief after years of mandatory schooling, being told I was thick due to my being from a care background and hearing impaired, which in middle class Cheshire society was a sin before fostering/adoption became ‘fashionable’.  A standstill in my apparently amazing brain refutes this; that even after a 2:1 (Hons) in Social Policy and a place at Kings College London to study a MREs in Education and Social Sciences the men in suits, with regards to my pretending to be a leader of the future, still ask what in the world I thought I was doing believing that I am someone who can change the world.  That there is more chance of Simon Cowell inviting me on the X-Factor and declaring that my abysmal singing (worse than a junior production of Cats) is now to be a world class voice competing with the likes of Kate Voegele.

I went away from the first Leadership and Empowerment event feeling rejuvenated; ready to return to daily life a Civil Servant for the Department of Work and Pensions.  The advice I gained from meeting my magnificent inspiring coach inspired me to start planning my global domination, with people with all kinds of disabilities contributing to the way society is governed around the world.  I recovered from my encounter with Nephew who was lovely as long as he did not talk directly to me (dolls, horrid glass eyes).  Nephew I am sure feels the same about me as a human being with dark blue eyes, unnatural….

The second event in Birmingham found me taking a friend whom has been a wonderful and guiding support to me since our meeting in December 2008.  There again were the inspirational speeches by Liz Sayce, whom after her talk I sought out as if I could achieve a fraction of the impact she made with regards to policies for disabled people, I may have to say I would have completed my life purpose.  The speech from Phil Friend was inspirational in that one does not need to be arrogant or considered conceited to believe in who you are.  A true leader changes the words IF I accomplish to WHEN I attain my goal

A leader is not a manger passing on information from the people above a leader is the individual who invokes change and policy initiatives.  I recently had this point clarified to me when to my immense shock upon departing the lift to the concourse at Salford University (where I undertook my undergraduate degree) that my shared vision had come into being.  A large empty space that was merely used as a corridor to the adjoining building was now astonishing, flat screen televisions in panels displaying information relevant to students and the faculty staffs, relaxing chairs, coffee tables with places for students to debate or rest between lectures.  When I called into see the faculty administrator, whom always supported my efforts for the students and staff relations told me that I am still talked about and honoured by the faculty staff, I realised that I can be a leader, I had already led a colossal change within the university environment.

Informing the faculty members of my recent achievements, I took into account the contentment I feel when I have supported someone else with information that they require.

During the second leadership event, my coach had decided that I was the individual to be approached by fellow delegates to ask for information regarding their current situations.  To be honoured as the person most qualified for the advice is a feeling that one can only take as an honour and a credit to those who taught me and had faith in me.