Director, Arts Coaching Training (ACT)
What makes a good leader?
Steve Jobs is an innovative leader who learnt over the years that he could do more by finding the right people to support him and work as a strong collaborative leader. Jobs didn't get it right first time, getting thrown out of his own company but persevered in his goal to become CEO of Apple again. I personally like using servant and situational leadership styles depending on how and with whom I'm working. I'm happy for someone to take the credit - as long as the task gets done!
Is leadership different for disabled people?
Yes, I believe having an impairment/health issue does change the experience of leadership, through the life enhancing experiences of living with the disability. Personally, I know I'm very strong at involving others, as I know what it is like being excluded - I might even over compensate this one some times. I also know that I don't always come over as a leader because I don't use certain visual body language techniques to emphasis when I really want to be listened to. Disabled people have been seen in the past as someone that gets things done for them because they can't do it themselves, so it is hard for a lot of people to accept that you have your strengths and leadership skills. Getting someone to show you where the ladies is located, takes something away from you then assisting them to work more effeciently as a CEO. It has taken me many years to realise that I'm a leader and that my style is naturally affected by my disability and that I'm working against a lot of preconceptions - that isn't going to stop me but it does slow me up sometimes (but then I'm patient - I've had to be)!
Do you think there are barriers to leadership for disabled people that non-disabled people don't have to face?
Yes, there are many additional barriers. Networking can be very tricky, if you have difficulties getting to the venue, seeing who you can talk with, making the most of people there, getting a delegate list in an accessible format. Personally, I find the guide dog can be a distraction because people want to talk about her rather than talk about business. Disabled people need to give themselves more time to get to appointments, because any lack of punctuality is blamed on the disability. Presentation must be immaculate for the same reason. The main barrier however is society's attitude to disabled leaders, it is still quite difficult for others to see your leadership qualities when they initially see the disability. You can show them, hopefully within a short while, but that initial reaction is still there!