opinion

Name: Mike Leadbetter

Job from Friday: President, Association of Directors of Social Services

Style: Man of many contrasts.

A 'huge hulk of flesh' with 'an incredibly sensitive side', a 'bluff Lancashire fellow' who is well respected Down South as Essex county council's social services director.

He's 'good, solid, experienced', says one colleague, who points to his ADSS work on training - and HR in particular. 'It is difficult to know him and not be extremely fond of him, ' says another. His experience of working on both sides of the North-South divide is seen as an asset.

Background: Left school at 15 with no qualifications. An apprentice printer for five years, later doing a two-year stint as print firm works and production manager before joining Manchester social services as an unqualified social worker. Part-time study - a feature of his working life - brought a social work qualification.

Founder member of the British Institute of Transactional Analysis in 1974, the year he turned professional with Rochdale Hornets rugby league club - he has 35 Lancashire county rugby union caps and has represented England as well. Climbed the social services ladder in Manchester in the 1970s and '80s, becoming residential and a day services manager in 1982. Just four years later, he was director of social services at Thameside, moving to the Essex job in 1993.

Future prospects: Continuity rather than any change in the ADSS's direction is expected. Could work at regional level in future or move on to the Social Services Inspectorate. But this is a man prepared to put in enough evening classes to achieve a complete change in direction - and still reach the top.