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Sync: e-bulletin May 2010


From coalitions to configurations

When Cameron spoke of the challenges facing his administration, Clegg displayed a number of micro-expressions, fleeting subconscious gestures that lasted between three and five seconds, biting his lip on a number of occasions and touching the inside of his mouth with his tongue. (James Borg, body language expert)

A picture of Nick Clegg and David Cameron

It's May and there's a new set of suits in Number 10, and notably, very few women elected with the exception of a notable green win in the South East. Interesting times ahead no doubt, and all the while, the volcano under Eyjafjallajokull (I enjoyed writing that!) glacier is billowing ash into our skies, clouding what may yet be our sunny summer.

Unusual matches and configurations are very much the flavour of this month both in and outside of Sync and it's this part of our world and ourselves that we're going to consider in this bulletin.

Doubt and definition

Dodgy eyesight is to calligraphy what Paraquat is to weeds – total disaster. (Sue Arnold, The Guardian, November 9th, 2009)

gordon_and_sarahbrownat _aushwitcz

Is it so odd or unusual for you to feel that leadership and disability cannot go hand in hand? Many people feel the same way about the mix of David Cameron and Nick Clegg in government.

Certainly Gordon Brown must have doubted the validity and possibility of openly embodying leadership and disability when leading the country.

Was this because he felt it to be unacceptable to society as a whole?

For us as disabled people this poses a set of rather edgy questions around what we believe about ourselves as leaders and the things we have internalised along the way about acceptability.

  • Do we question whether we can lead because of or despite our impairments?
  • When leading, do we question the decisions we make, thinking how they might be seen in relationship to disability?
  • Do we somewhere inside ourselves believe that disabled leaders are 'doomed to fail' or have a shorter shelf life than our more 'robust' counterparts?

So what of Gordon Brown - what difference would it have made to his leadership had he openly defined as a disabled person?

Might he have been better received by being honest about his visual impairment or would it have made way for something else? For him perhaps it was just too much of a risk. We shall never know.

read an article about Gordon Brown's Vision by Sue Arnold

Sue Williams

I felt that there was a relationship between the hidden lives of disabled people in London and the relationship with the city environment as a whole (not just the built environment) which explores notions of alienation, unacceptability, being somewhere where you shouldn't be, transience, invisibility and vulnerability. So I began by placing exotic or unusual animals in London streets. (Sue Williams)

Sue Williams is certainly someone who knows untenable territory well in both her professional and artistic life and she explores this in her article Tales of the Unexpected, this month on Sync. Known by many as Senior Officer, Diversity, at Arts Council England, she is also an exceptional artist, admired for her detailed and delicate rendering of rodents, marsupials and exotic creatures in unconventional urban spaces.

In her article, she considers the notion of disabled leadership as an unconventional, unlikely position, drenched in risk, yet full of creative possibilities.

... Let's face it, being disabled is itself subversive; the very existence of disabled people challenges notions of normality. So putting yourself out there can create both political and personal risk. (Sue Williams)

Go straight to Tales of the Unexpected by Sue Williams

Unconventional to congruent

Many unconventional leaders are down-to-earth mavericks who harness their unique perspectives on life in order to trail blaze. (Neal Burgis, Ph.D, Founder and CEO of Burgis)

Sue's drawing

Moving into leadership is difficult when people around us are still knee deep in assumptions about the disabled experience. They have strong notions that our leadership is only a matter of right and equal opportunity rather than believing that we just might be there because we've got the right skills, approach and flair for the job in hand.

Leadership is, for so many of us, new and unusual, that's a fact. There's a tendency to conform in these positions rather than bring our unconventional set of starting points.

So if the opportunity arises for us to lead, should we change our behaviours and turn what is still unusual and unconventional into something that is congruent and acceptable to others?

Alternatively we could just grab the bull by the horns and step into the ring, taking the risk, and dealing with what happens, be it good or bad.

Sue's article goes on to say:-

being aware that something may not work and being prepared to deal with the outcomes of that. And that’s hard if the internalised oppression button is switched on – as it can feel like one is conforming to one of those transmitted stereotypes. .

Sketch books and diary drawings

If a diary's contents has designs on you, if it too is fashioning the self - and Bobby Baker has always explored this territory, they're the result not of long deliberation but of spontaneous response to that moment, that day. (Marina Warner)

Bobby Baker's book cover

Bobby Baker launched her new book Diary Drawings, Mental Illness and Me last week at the Wellcome Collection with hand-crafted take away baked biscuits.

Bobby has always embodied the unconventional position and this is tainted and touched by her experience of 'excruciating troubles' (Marina Warner)

Next month, we'll have an additional case study pulled together through a series of conversations with Bobby over the last year which explores rank and circumstance.

Within this and her brilliant book, we see wonderful textures of a woman leading and being led through the twists and turns of her extraordinary life and experience.

The importance of the sketch book, the diary and the journal is one that Sue Williams also upholds as something that has allowed her to engage with the world in a different way and means that when she's sitting in public places, people come up and talk to her as an artist rather than a strategist.

Sue's case study sees her talking and drawing in a film where she explores what drives her and how she's found new balance in bringing more of her artist self into play.

Go straight to Sue William's Case Study

Re:fresh Yourself

a page of text - the word leadership is in red in the centre, the other words around it are in black and blurry and unreadable.

Even if this hot weather doesn't last, make time this summer to Re:fresh yourself.

Re:freshers is a festival of ideas, networks and insights on leadership offering a ‘pick and mix’ of drop-in seminars, guest speakers, practical insights, facilitated discussions, well-being sessions, networking & social opportunities, performances and an all-day café for meetings and informal get-togethers, staged by the Cultural Leadership Programme.

Sync Intensives will be having their 2nd meeting at Re:freshers on the 8th July.

One of the Re:freshers events, we'd like to highlight is Concourse2 – Yes, No, Maybe.

This is open to all freelancers/ independents /micro businesses working in the cultural and creative industries as trainers, consultants, project managers, advisers, coaches, mentors or in other ways.

The day starts by taking the words ‘Yes, No, Maybe’ with provocative inputs from Indy Hunjan, founder and ‘boss lady’ of Kala Phool, Laurence Clark, the UK’s leading ‘sit down’ comedian (as described by Cherie Blair) and Jon Spooner, Artistic Director, Unlimited Theatre, whose latest show explores the imagined, actual, ethical, political, religious and philosophical impacts of leading edge research in Quantum Physics (no, seriously, it does).

Friday 9th July, 2010, 10.00am – 4.00pm, Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, 60 places available at £50 (£30). Further information is at in the Yes, No, Maybe section.

That's it for this month

Sarah Pickthall

Sync Coaching

Register for Re:freshers here

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