Friday, 21 September 2012
You may think that leadership has nothing to do with you. Most people probably feel leaders are ‘others’, people at the top, or ‘the head one’ as my grandmother used to say of anyone in authority from the owner of the green grocer’s to the Prime Minister.
In fact you set the pace for all those around you – your children, younger relatives, colleagues and friends. Like it or not, you influence people in your environment. You are a role model. If you are disabled, it is possible you could be the very first disabled role model for some of those around you. That gives you a lot of power. It is up to you how you use it.
So think about it. What impact do you make? How do you respond to event and other people? How do you ensure you develop in the way you want? If other people make life difficult for you what do you do? Remember, others will be watching and learning from your example.
I have been reading about leadership recently. I would recommend ‘The New Leaders’ by Daniel Golemann. The book looks at how emotional intelligence profoundly affects not just people in a workplace but also productivity. It sets out in detail why motivated, happy staff in a positive atmosphere work better. There is striking evidence that e.g. for every 1 per cent improvement in the service climate of an organisation there is a 2 per cent increase in revenue. (This is an interesting point in the light of Phil Friend’s blog about customer service). Another study of 62 Fortune 500 company CEOs showed that ‘the more positive the overall moods of people in the top management team, the more cooperatively they worked together – and the better the company’s business results.’ (page 18) Could you influence a team, department or whole organisation in this way? If so, it could be worth thinking about how.
I have been privileged to be able to work closely with wide range of disabled people including as a coach. I have been consistently impressed by these disabled people’s additional skills, often learned via challenging life experiences. These include great time, financial and people management, problem-solving skills, creativity, flexibility, communication, emotional intelligence, empathy and humour. If you put that list under the nose of the average employer they would jump at the chance to draw on such talent. Our task as disabled leaders is now two-fold: first believe in our own skills and next communicate and project them effectively.
But it is hard. I won’t deny that. There’s no blueprint for many situations. We are often pioneers. But we are human and doing what we need to as leaders can often feel isolating, risky and frightening. But the good news is that if you feel these things, the chances are this is because you are developing your leadership muscle. The ‘great man’ theory of leadership i.e. that leaders are born has more or less been debunked. It is now clear that leadership is about hard work, practice, resilience and learning from when things go wrong. It is also about living with uncertainty. Deepak Chopra refers to the ‘wisdom of uncertainty’. He says that you can seek a lifetime of certainty and never find it, but if you are willing to live with uncertainty you will also allow in endless possibilities. Dark nights of the soul, when everything feels too much, are a part of developing. They can be the times when you realise the full scale of your powers and they can produce the seeds of your most brilliant ideas and plans.
So how can you develop your leadership potential? One way is by mentoring. Sharing what you know is a great way of learning new things about yourself and there is nothing quite as satisfying as enabling others to learn and develop. Disability Rights promotes both leadership among disabled people and mentoring. Their important work is crucial for creating future role leaders and role models.
The current recession means there has never been a greater need for strong, resilient leaders with new perspective on the challenges our society faces. Make sure your experience and ideas count; lead your life as positively as you can and others will follow. Good luck!
Jane Cordell is a Trustee for Disability Rights UK, a coach and public speaker. Her website is: http://gettingequal.com
Posted by radar at 13:00