Neil is a 2010 Clore Social Leadership fellow and Chapter Lead for the Clore Social Leadership North of Scotland Chapter. For more information on the work of this chapter click here to visit their page.
I remember sitting in the reception of the Mental Health Foundation in London thumbing through materials on the coffee table. I picked up a flyer for a new leadership programme, Clore Social Leadership, something I had never heard about at that point. I subsequently secured a space on the inaugural Clore Social Leadership programme as part of the 2010 cohort. In April 2009 I had registered Dementia Adventure as an organisation but in reality, the organisation at that time was just me in a spare bedroom at my parent’s house. No staff, no resources, no hierarchical power. But what I did have was a vision of a better life with dementia. The more I told people about this vision and the idea of Dementia Adventure the more it grew. Before I knew it I was becoming a leader, not because I was a CEO (there was nothing to be a CEO of at that point) but because people like Clore Social believed in me. People wanted to follow me, wanted to join with me to make this idea, this dream, a reality. There were a number of pivotal experiences on the Clore Social programme including producing and launching the Green Exercise research, taking part in Action Learning Sets and mentoring sessions with an inspirational leader in the USA. But perhaps most critical was the experience, confidence and validity I gained from the Clore Leadership programme at Windsor Castle. I learnt over a few days that you are a leader regardless of your position or status in an organisation. You are a leader if you have a vision and a mission which others believe in and want to make happen by choosing to take positive action towards the goal you have articulated. The Clore Social motto resonated then and still does today: ‘know yourself, be yourself and look after yourself.’
Ten years on and thanks to Clore Social, and many many others, my vision is now a reality. During my ten years of leading Dementia Adventure from a back bedroom idea to a £1M organisation supporting thousands of families, I learnt a great deal. Leadership involves following your path, listening to your followers, coping with self-doubt, staying true to your values and having the courage and bravery to fulfil your purpose. I guess looking back I did better at the first two elements of the Clore Social motto: knowing myself and being myself, than I did with the crucial third element, looking after myself. With hindsight, I should have invested sooner in more consistent peer-based support, something which worked so well during the 2010-11 programme period. Being with and talking through challenges with other leaders in an Action Learning Set is now something I have brought back into my life as the host of the Clore Social Chapter for the North of Scotland.
2019 was quite a year. Dementia Adventure celebrated its tenth birthday. My extended family and I relocated to North East Scotland, from Essex, to live a simpler life by the sea and the mountains. As I sit here in 2020 I am deeply proud of everything the growing team of people at Dementia Adventure has achieved and will go on to achieve. In the same way that I am deeply proud of my children, the work has yet to produce more great things. My current path involves writing more and supporting other social sector leaders, as well as swimming in the icy coastal waters of Scotland. Reflecting back on 2010 is an important thing but how many of us plan the next ten years? Where will you be in 2030? What will you be doing? What will you have in your life? For more reading and resources on planning your next decade do please read my blog post: Little green (& black) books.