16 July 2019

Our 'leaders in the spotlight' blog series continues with a catch-up with Alison Inman to talk housing careers, getting out of your comfort zone and Anne of Green Gables..

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the housing sector.

I’m currently on the boards of Colne Housing Society and Saffron Housing Trust as well as Tpas. I was CIH President last year and am also a co-founder of SHOUT, the social housing campaign. When I left uni I worked (first as a volunteer, later paid) at a Citizens Advice Bureau. I reckon that experience has pretty much coloured everything I’ve done since then. I had a series of jobs in local government and the third sector.

Then everything went a bit wrong. I was unable to work for ages due to illness and that was really hard. I’d first got involved in governance in my twenties and began to do more and more of that when I began to get better. I joined the Board of Colchester Borough Homes in 2007, it was lovely to come home to housing.

2. What do you like most about your job?

Well, I’m really lucky in that I do lots of different things. I love the variety, the small conversations that may lead to real change, I like to get my teeth into a set of Board papers and have even learned to love the work of the audit committee. At CIH the opportunity to meet our members was a privilege and a pleasure, and the work we have started to tackle the epidemic of domestic abuse is what I am most proud of.

3. And what do you find most challenging?

I have to be pretty good at juggling and that’s still a work in progress for me. I joined the audit committee at Colne Housing to try and take myself out of my comfort zone, and technically that can be difficult.

Not having one, discrete, role can be hard. It’s taken me a good few years to get over someone weaponising that and saying something like ‘it’s obvious she hasn’t got a proper job’. I obsessed over this for ages but decided to cut myself some slack and stop!

I’m loads more confident talking than I am writing (which is why I’m so late with this…)

4. The tagline for the event this year is ‘lead from where you stand’. Have you got any tips or words of wisdom for the leaders of tomorrow on making an impact in their current role?

Leadership isn’t about your position in the hierarchy. You don’t have to be CEO to be a leader. Some of the greatest leaders have no job title but are working in their communities, enabling others to thrive. You can do that from wherever you are in an organisation. It can be really frustrating if you’re stuck in an organisation where ‘command and control’ leadership is the order of the day, but the words of Reinhold Niebuhr are worth remembering:

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

5. Tell us about fictional character from a book or film that you admire and think demonstrates great leadership skills.

It would be tempting to go with someone from my favourite box set, the West Wing, probably Leo (I cry every time he dies) but I’m going to go out on a limb and choose Anne Shirley. If you haven’t read ‘the canon’ start with Anne of Green Gables…

Ann (with an e) is a remarkably modern character (the first book was written in 1908). She is feisty and strong-minded, brave and principled. Anne is a grafter with an incredible imagination. She does what she thinks is the right thing and apologises (eventually) when she gets something wrong. She is loyal to a fault and I reckon we should all #BeMoreAnne.

Alison Inman

Alison is a board member at Colne Housing Society and Saffron Housing Trust and a Director of Tpas.

Alison Inman is a Board Member at Colne Housing Society and Saffron Housing Trust and a Director of Tpas. She is a former President of the Chartered Institute of Housing.

Leaders in the spotlight: Alison Inman