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11 September 2023

Nahida: embracing my authentic self

Nahida, Service Manager in Essex, embraces her authentic self and lived experience of care as a leader in social work.

Nahida is a Service Manager for Essex Childrens Social Care. Her time on the Pathways programme enabled her to see how being her authentic self and using her lived experience of care more centrally in her work and role as a leader could be positive and powerful. 

Before starting your journey on Pathway 4, what were you hoping to get out of the programme?  

I have met and been shaped by many inspiring people and events during my time as a social worker which have led me to where I am today. I wanted to do the Pathways programme to take some time to pause and understand what really matters to me, the fundamentals of my leadership style and to consider how I would want to shape services for the future. The residential gave me space and time to think about myself as a leader and the journey that I’ve been on, which has been mostly in the same local authority. Because of this, most of my career has been led by what’s been set out for me, in terms of existing organisational culture, and what I realised by giving myself the ‘time out’ was that I hold autonomy to be able to campaign for what I see at the important values and approaches for how we shape services for the future 

Reflecting on the residential experience, was there a particular session or conversation that impacted you?  

Rasheed Pendry’s session on practice leadership really impacted me because he talked about his whole self as an adopted person and how this influences his leadership approach. My childhood journey was very unstable, I’m a care experienced person who went through adoption, and subsequently the breakdown of it. This left me with many scars, but has also shaped the determined, driven leader that I am who aspires for greater attention and support for those who children’s service support – in essence to think of a young person’s life journey rather than just to 18 as can so often happen. I am highly driven by my own experiences in this regard, but I also feel that I have not been able to fully embrace and own that part of me in my leadership style and approach. When I started as a social worker the message was to ‘leave yourself at the door’, you needed to be professional and that meant not talking about yourself or experiences.  

Rasheed spoke about openly his experience of adoption and how it’s a huge driving force for his career – how it shapes his values and enquiry with others as well as how it invites him to pause and reflect upon his position in relation to leadership and decision making. In that moment I started to realise that it was ok for me to accept that part of myself within my leadership story and start to be accepting and confident of my whole self, my authentic self, to acknowledge my own lived experience in my work and recognise it’s part of why I’m so passionate about what I do.  

What reflections did you have from Maria Takaendisa’s session on racism?  

It’s so important we consider the oppression of our global majority communities/colleagues. As a dual heritage person, I have my own lifetime experiences of racial abuse, scars that I will always carry and continue to internalise, including feeling less valued for my views and opinions amongst my white colleagues.  However, I am pleased to be part of and to be actively driving forward an Anti-Racist Practice agenda in Essex alongside my Black and Asian Service Manager colleagues, who have offered some strength to step forwards bravely alongside them to tackle this agenda. Maria’s session connected me further with the oppression and barriers that many face, and my responsibility and position as a leader to actively challenge and begin to dismantle them. During the session, the silence in the room from colleagues was a stark reminder of the shame, fear and guilt colleagues (majority white) in the room held.  

In Essex I have the privilege of being a member of the anti-racist practice strategy board and am driven to make meaningful change within my local authority, but I did wonder about whether the other leaders in the room are as driven or committed to do the same and what they would need to be courageous and brave as allies.  I would like to see action and accountability from leaders to prioritise this agenda and actively champion it, to set an agenda to challenge the oppressive systema in place within their own personal and professional lives. 

What are you planning (or have already started) to implement within your LA off the back of the residential? 

Being my authentic self within my social work role has translated into me being more open with my team and encouraging others to do the same, creating a culture where we can use our experiences alongside our professional toolkit to best support the families we work with. I also plan to invite conversations with our organisation to develop and support a care and adoption experienced employee forum, to invite colleagues to share this part of themselves and have a safe space to share their experiences and offer support to one another. 

I was aware coming into the residential and having completed the 360 feedback that an area for my attention and development was better understanding of the political environment and its impact on how we operate and the shaping of services, so starting to think and learn about this has been really welcomed and has made me think about how I can stretch myself into this space more actively.