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Sync 100: e-bulletin October 09



If we're not apologising at every turn, we're being bolchy and aggressive. (Performing Artist, Bobby Baker)

photo from the Leadership Lounge event

October has seen the trees change colour and the nights draw in and this month we've been thinking about a whole host of leadership skills that some of us have and some of us are honing!

Apology has been around the block a bit and we've focused this month's article on how we might break out of the rather nasty habit of saying sorry for being who we are and making other people feel better about us being in the room.

This month's article is called From Apology to Subversion . It takes a look at the full spectrum of how we mediate our impairment or let it rule and run us over, and the shape shifting we've had to do to be seen and heard on our own terms.

This picture was drawn live by Selina Postgate, a delegate at Lead On Open Space in Cheltenham - a CLP leadership event. Selina's point is valid: our very existence could be seen to be 'subversive', but how can we change this? Do we want to change this? Is this change we need in order to lead?

We considered opening up, sharing something different about ourselves, something surprising, not necessarily anything to do with our disability, and pulling it out of the bag when necessary, in any number of situations.

We've had interesting conversations with James Partridge, the CEO of Changing Faces, with the brilliant and most subversive Bobby Baker, and have had tea and cooked a Case Study with the enchanting Anya Ustasewski who literally emptied the contents of her bag onto our Sync table so we could get to grips with her leadership shape and style.

So maybe its time to get thinking about doing things a little bit differently in the weeks and months ahead...!

Surprising them into submission

'...the key to successful engagement is in what you do in the first few milliseconds of meeting someone and the impression you make...' (James Partridge, CEO, Changing Faces)

photo of a red kite

We were able to meet James Partridge as part of our regional programme, Sync South East, exploring the idea of organisational confidence. We were very interested in what he had to say, as a significant disabled leader in the voluntary sector and the changes in his thinking and practice that he has made along the way.

He brought to our attention this idea of consciously practising doing something that is different from what people expect and then using it as part of developing leadership style.

James has learned over time to stop apologising for the way he looks and to replace it with something far more energetic: a firm handshake, a change of subject or a powerful set of things to say. In doing this, he has literally changed the shape of his offer, a message reflected through his organisation, Changing Faces, and his Face Equality Campaign.

"I started as a low flying guinea fowl and changed into a red kite, noticeable in a different way, high flying ready to swoop down and catch my prey"

go to the Changing Faces website

Anya Ustazewski

Listen to us. Get to know us. Respect us. Include us. Don't put all the onus on us to fit in to your world – meet us half way. (Anya in the Guardian, January 2009)

During tea with Anya we were able to look more closely at this exciting disabled professional and to learn from the wealth of good and bad experiences she has had along the way.

Using more of herself allows her to have richer conversations and connect with people in different ways, influencing and changing the way they feel about 'someone like her' leading the way.

Our case study has links to Anya's music and her campaigning, allowing us to see how she is putting herself out there.

To go straight to the Anya case study

What next?

Lets get this party started!

photo of penny pepper at one of the sync events

Firstly, Sync is planning some introduction events, to really get to grips with the issues concerning disabled people and leadership. We are going to have one at DADA Fest in Liverpool this Autumn, and another in Manchester (fingers crossed) in the New Year. We will bring you more details as soon as they are confirmed.

These will be open to old and new Sync members, and anyone who is interested but not yet taken the plunge. It will give us a chance to check in with people and get different perspectives on what exactly we mean by disability and leadership and where the differences are for us.

There is still a chance to get us to come to you if you want - we would like to run one more introduction session in the autumn/spring and are looking for a host!

Secondly, next month we will be bringing you details of how you can apply for a placement through Sync. This will be a practical opportunity to put developing leadership skills into practice whilst based at a major arts organisation within London (at the moment we are talking to Sadlers Wells, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Camden Arts Centre and Arts Admin to find out which two would work best) or whilst working for Unlimited as part of the Cultural Olympiad. These placements present a chance for Sync to shift up a gear and deliver real opportunities for people to step into leadership roles. If you want to go on the waiting list to get the information as soon as we have it, just email with 'placement' in the subject line.

Exciting times! Watch this space!

Sarah Pickthall


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