We are a sum of our parts and we carry our psychological heritage with us. Internalisation of the external world is inevitable, it's how we come to terms with it when we can that counts.
There are many barriers to leadership that non-disabled people don’t face. Perhaps the most crucial of these, affecting us all, is disabling attitudes.
Is leadership different for disabled people? Yes, I guess it is. If you are lucky the experience of exclusion can make one a fighter.
Having a disability definitely changes the experience of leadership as it is a constant reminder of vulnerability and difference, especially when the 'issue' is not always visible.
A very narrow view of leadership which limits leadership to formal roles, and is based upon normative standards of non-impairment (and which lead to disability) create barriers for disabled people.
If a person needs to work part time their promotional prospects are more limited. I have experienced institutional hostility to undertaking more senior posts part time.
I’m not ‘out and proud’... because on occasions that I have disclosed professionally I’ve felt too many assumptions are made about what I can and can’t ‘cope with’, that I’m no longer a ‘safe bet’ for that challenging piece of work and that sometimes decisions about what I do and don’t do have been made for me.
I just think sometimes it is more the case that people with disabilities don’t feel confident to put themselves forward and take lead. They may assume they are unable to provide good leadership and that people may look down at them.
The barriers to leadership for us are summed up by 'I am not a label or diagnosis, I'm a person'.
I believe there is a cultural side to shared experience of barriers and experiences of life, and believe a non-disabled person cannot imagine this. A disabled leader who has experienced barriers will be knowledgeable about where they exist.
Experience of disability and adversity through illness can empower someone (eventually or at some stage) so they can be a great inspiration to others (disabled or not).
Do disabled people experience barriers to leadership that non disabled people don’t experience? Yes, partly because of communication barriers and participating, but I think it really requires confidence and alternative methods.
From an early age I realised that if I was going to achieve anything I would have to do it on my own. You have to persevere, to keep trying, to keep battling to get somewhere, even if people aren’t on your side or giving you the responses you want.
Having an impairment gives leaders positive qualities. It gives us practical skills in problem-solving, finding creative solutions and thinking round the corners. Overcoming barriers enables us to cut through the crap dished out by authority figures, bureaucrats and retro ivory-tower dwellers eager to maintain their historical position.
I've worked in Disability Arts for a staggering 14 years now. I was baptised with fire and brimstone under the sign of LDAF. I've looked back lots of times - mainly because although I kind of made myself into a leader by virtue of wanting to do a good job I've never actually considered myself a leader - or even what I do as a career.
The one-dimensional view of a leader as some Henry V figure rallying the troops - does get in the way. A demagogue's good entertainment value sometimes - but you wouldn't you rather have the calm voice, quietly winning the day (with the odd joke thrown in)?
The biggest barrier for disabled people in attaining leadership is the attitudes of others around them. Many of these attitudes are subconscious and are therefore difficult to change.
There are no barriers to leadership. A leader is someone whose actions and personal qualities single them out. There are however massive barriers to formal training and mainstream opportunities and that must change. I believe we get the leaders we deserve. We have to take control of our destinies.
I think with any form of impairment it enables the person to be a little more understanding and tolerant and enables them to have more empathy with the other people's perspective.
Non disabled people do not get the assumption that a disabled leader got there as a token salve to equality, a bit like the token woman or the black representative.
…often having an impairment encourages growth in communication and innovation skills which are also essential in leadership. However, disabled people do not always recognise this in themselves.
As my physical mobility decreases with each year I become more conscious of roads not taken and of the reasons why. I know now that following your own paths and being your own leader does not come with age. It’s a continuous process of un-learning old myths told by others about what is possible and what is not.
Just because you have a disability they think you are incapable and they don't listen. At the moment no one is listening or taking action. You really have to speak up and if you don't nothing will get changed.
I think that leadership qualities do not change in a leader who has an impairment or health issue, nor do I think necessarily that facing those challenges makes you a better leader or person, but I think it's exceptionally important to have role models in whom we can see aspects of ourselves.
I believe that to become a good leader, you need to be able to reflect on your experiences, both positive and negative, in ways that are useful to you and use the insight gained to inform your work with others.
It’s empowering as a disabled person to be helping to break down barriers, forcing some of this country’s leading designers to revisit their grand designs. Because I won’t be compromised. I have to start off from a strong position and bargain my way through. If I start off being tame, I’d just get squashed.
There are many leadership techniques and strategies that disabled people simply cannot employ. … long hours, stupidly tight deadlines; I can’t shmoose and network during breaks… but more than all this, in our society disability pushes someone down the social and power structure and this really impacts on our image and credibility.
People are surprised by the amount of experience I have… I never push it forward, I don’t think to, I think that people recognize it in me, but of course they very often don’t. They see a disabled woman 5 feet tall before they see or think anything else.
Of course your experiences shape your self confidence and self worth and because of that the hiding is about not wanting to come forward and expose yourself, who you really are, because it's so painful but imagine, if you don’t take that risk and stay stuck in a place where you can’t 'do your life'.
Having an impairment brings the experience of leadership to a different perspective as notions of inclusion and understanding are taken more on board. Having experienced exclusion, the leader's vision should make a significant difference encouraging different values towards his/her team based on awareness and determination.
Experiences of exclusion can make one more determined and tenacious, but also turn one into a bit of a show-off in order to prove one's worth.
I have found it incredibly important to not allow this idea of being "impaired" to undermine the abilities I possess.
I would like a disabled leader to come from a different space - equal but different. To lead from a kinder, more considerate space … This is the gold of our sometimes very tough experiences.
…most of all you have to remain open minded at all times and fight the tendency to view the world solely through your own personal experience of being disabled.
I do believe having a disability/health issue changing how someone leads because I think they bring different qualities to leadership… I think that someone who is passionate about the task in hand whatever that might be, can overcome theses challenges by planning different and unconventional ways of leading.
The experience of exclusion and (lack of) involvement could go either way – it’s made some of our strongest and most belligerently effective leaders, but it’s held back many others who doubt themselves so deeply that their leadership potential is swallowed up.
I think experiences of exclusion can give you the fighting spirit to push to your goals but I feel it is challenging because of a lack of self-esteem, in my case anyway!
Sometimes feel you have to prove yourself 10 times over to be seen as an equal to non-disabled people in leadership positions
An individual's vision of themselves as a leader can be shaped by their experiences of exclusion and involvement as it may effect ones confidence, pride and feeling of self worth and ability to offer and share their experiences and knowledge with others which is what being a leader is about.
I have struggled to assert myself in an art world that encourages a public persona and values confidence and an academic and 'bright' mind. It took me a long time to realise that I have something far more valuable to contribute: me, my life experience, creativity and values.
I think an individual's sense of self is shaped by their experiences, and that has to shape their vision of themselves as a leader. Being excluded is only my issue if I allow it to be; the loss is on the part of those doing the excluding.
I fervently believe that, if you have an issue that you want to address, and you have an idea of how to do it - and are not afraid to try - then you already have potential to be a leader, and no-one can stand in your way.
My view is that life is a process and that leadership is one facet of it. How I relate to myself; my inner feelings flow out into the world and create my engagement with others, its a dance of contact reflection relating and learning. The world is my teacher, so are you.
Is leadership different for disabled people? Hmmn, tricky one. Answer: Not necessarily! But from a personal perspective and coming down from the fence, exclusion from a mental health perspective is a very particular exclusion.
I think having an impairment or health issue is likely to impact in some way in every aspect of life including leadership... There are a number of potential spin-offs as we go about making positives out of negatives.
Is leadership different for disabled people? No, I believe it isn’t. You're either born to be a leader or not. A good leader will find ways to compensate for issues such as exclusion.
Disabled people are accustomed to overcoming obstacles, to challenging paradigms, to being determined, and to having a good understanding of the human condition. These things might be true, and they are qualities that inherent in a good leader, but that’s not always enough.
Leaders have motives, passion, energy and are full of ideas – this can motivate the team. It can be hard for other people to see disabled people as leaders. Because of this able bodied people can not see or understand why disabled people want to be leaders.
The majority of key leadership qualities are formed by a person who is committed to their own personal development, personal change, self-reflection and introspection.
Having a disability means to experience entrenched barriers, which hinder progress within any mainstream structure that might nurture standard leaderships skills… We come from backgrounds of exclusion and isolation, yet our perspectives can be revolutionary and energising, when these old fashioned rigid systems are brave enough to support us and allow us in.
Do disabled people experience barriers to leadership that non disabled people don’t experience? All the time, with everywhere you go… They think they know best. Because they may know one disabled person, they think we are all the same.
A person with an impairment probably works harder to achieve the recognition they deserve because of the way the environment contributes to their disablement.
Leadership is often mistaken as a quality that only some people possess when in fact it's a quality of which everyone is capable. Even deciding to change the TV channel is leadership. Take a lesson from your own inner couch potato and see what potential you have to change the world.
Disabled leaders have more pressure on them to be successful; it’s not possible to be just good at what you do - you have to be outstanding…
It is interesting to consider how the characteristics that make for successful leadership are perhaps also some of the personal characteristics that have enabled me to survive, literally.
Our society is still full of prejudice when it comes to disability. To be leaders in any sphere outside a pure disability context, we have to be 'more so' in everything we do - more inspiring, more dedicated, more determined, more able to shake off other people's prejudices.
As a deaf person, I would imagine the access to information or communication would pose an issue but providing a sign language interpreter does not necessarily eliminate the issue as the qualities and performance of the interpreter himself would have a huge impact on the overall result.
The biggest barrier that I face is probably being taken seriously – I hope to have a style that’s friendly and approachable but this can sometimes be misinterpreted, due to my impairment, as being slightly infantile. Trying to keep this balance is tricky.
The view others have of a leader is influenced by their own preconceptions, and this includes their preconceptions of disabled people (as well as those of the disabled person themselves). Rather than starting from a clean slate it is often necessary to deconstruct existing stereotypes before one can build a platform for leadership.
I have found having a hidden disability very challenging as obviously people are not aware that there's anything wrong. However, the more I have explained to people what my disability is, the more I have found that they are willing to help and 'look out for me'.
Attitudinal issues experienced through life undermine our sense and appreciation of self. It takes much conscious work and ‘the right conditions’ for us to breakthrough in spite of all this.