Name: Laurie Martin
Location (on Frontline): London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Current job title: Senior Adviser, Civil Service Strategy – The Cabinet Office
Leadership is not just about making the best of what we are presented with. It is about asking the question – what could different look like? I would like to think that I am always considering that question. Leadership does not stop with the question though – if you hurtle in trying to shake things up, you tend to get people riled up, your message gets lost, and despite your best intentions, nothing changes. Leadership is about judging the situation right and nudging people around you to act.
Leadership in social work has three elements – leading self, leading families and leading the sector as a whole. Leading self is about self-reflection, honesty, humility and resilience. Leading families is about understanding the systemic nature of the problems families face and harnessing their own motivations to change. Leading the sector involves identifying and sharing best practice, improving the offer to citizens and building a better system as a whole.
Frontline transformed my leadership journey. I learnt about how I reacted under pressure, how I dealt with complexity and ambiguity, and how best to act when the nature of the problem is contested, when there is resistance amongst key players, and when success is unclear. Those lessons are invaluable.
Individuals and families are really only smaller parts of a much bigger whole – organisations, communities, cultures, society. Once you know how the dynamics of one operate and how to intervene, the lessons are largely applicable across the whole system. So while I’m not in frontline social work any longer, I draw on the leadership lessons I learnt every day – whether that means leading the people I manage through personal challenges, or leading colleagues to bring about change.
Frontline taught me to lead through inquiry – to invite the views of others to build a network of people willing to help define a problem and try to solve it. Having a community of people thinking about how to make change in empathic and empowering ways can be transformative.
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I received coaching from Hazel Hyslop during my second year of Frontline, and I am pleased to say that I found it so helpful that I continue to see her now.
Having a child confide in and trust you, and seeing them grow is also something that stays with you and gives you hope for the future.
With other fellows, I’ve been able to think about the scope for change and innovation in practice, policy and research across the sector.
The Firstline programme has challenged my views of social work management entirely, and I am now enjoying my role much more.
I joined the Firstline programme because I was looking for something that would challenge me both professionally and personally.
I definitely feel like I’m part of a positive movement to change social work – and I’m thankful to be part of it.
I don’t know any other career where you can work in such a collaborative way with a child and their family.
What I enjoy most is that social work is just so interesting. Families are unique and fascinating and no two will ever be the same.
Everyone has a different story, but we all share a passion for helping vulnerable children and families.
I really enjoy getting to know families and building useful relationships with them.
I work with children within the criminal justice system and their families to reduce reoffending and manage their risk to themselves and others.
A unit is essentially a small, tight-knit team, with an experienced leader.
Leadership is important to my work because it helps to define acceptable behaviours and is an opportunity to role model to staff with varying levels of experience.
Leadership is not just about making the best of what we are presented with. It is about asking the question – what could different look like?
I decided to apply to the Undergraduate Taster Day because I wanted to ensure that I had as much information about the Frontline programme as possible before I applied.