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Civil Service

Disability-confident leadership

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Diversity and inclusion, Effective leaders
Sarah Banks
Sarah Banks

I have to admit that I wouldn’t immediately see myself as a leader, or someone in the position to inspire others.

But outside of the day job, I am the Chair of the Civilian Defence Disability Network and have realised that everyone can be a leader, regardless of grade or position. It’s about the behaviours we demonstrate and the relationships we form with others.

Despite the fact that my particular disability (cerebral palsy) has got worse as I have got older, I have not let that stop me learning and communicating. I realised that leadership is about being passionate about making a difference and inspiring behavioural change. You need to be a good listener, and to be prepared to communicate honestly and empathetically. I am always looking to increase my own knowledge and the understanding of others.

I’ve always believed that you should ‘do as you would be done by’. In other words, treat people as you would like to be treated yourself. Everyone deserves to feel respected, valued and to be able to make a valid contribution to the workplace and wider society without facing barriers. As leaders in the Civil Service, there is much we can do to make sure that is the case.

As a group, the Defence Disability Network works together to make sure line managers and disabled staff know where to go for further advice. The aim is to make us a more disability-confident employer and ensure the well-being of disabled staff. Ultimately, we want to create an inclusive workplace where everyone can be themselves, regardless of who they are.

'Effective Leaders' logoIt has been a privilege to work with disabled colleagues and hear their  experiences, and, when necessary, to intervene and successfully address any problems they might experience in the workplace. This can involve influencing others and offering constructive challenge, so requires strong leadership skills.

MOD is a great and varied organisation to work for and has presented me with lots of opportunities, from provision of reasonable workplace adjustments to learning and development choices. All of my job roles within the Navy, the Army and Defence Science & Technology Laboratory have offered career interest; and I am continually learning.  

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  1. Comment by Nigel Tarrant posted on

    Excellent post!!. Great collections.. It’s really helpful to us.I follow blog for tips and guidelines.
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  2. Comment by Dawn posted on

    I am constantly amazed by the depth and breadth of your disability knowledge when you comment on draft policies and change programmes. As the other commentators have said - you are an inspiration! And that you for all your support.

  3. Comment by Tracy posted on

    Sarah, i have had the privilege of you advice and guidance on several issues over the past eight or so years. As a point of contact you are approachable and professional at all times, but as a person I can only say you are amazing. You inspire others to be the best they can and despite all the challenges you have faced both in and out of work, you are a benchmark that others should strive to be like. Thank you for all your continued support and hard work.

  4. Comment by Mary P posted on

    Wow Sarah, i'm impressed and very proud to know you and how well you've coped in spite of your disability. You must truly inspire many others. Well done our famous friend. x Mary P.

  5. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on


    The fact that you have overcome the challenges posed by your particular disability and that you are willing to help others should inspire others that anything is possible!