• Philip J Connolly

Positively Disruptive Leadership


I hear that people want leaders but I see that leadership is what’s needed. Finding leaders isn't difficult once people know what leadership isn't. Leadership is not a permanent state, you are not required to patrol the streets 24/7. Some leaders are just leaders for the few seconds it takes to evacuate people from a building that is flooding. Leadership doesn't have to be heroic. Many leaders are the bureaucrats that write the progressive policy that no one appears to read but everyone enacts. Leadership isn't of necessity dangerous. Leadership doesn't mean you being subject to ridicule as many acts of leadership are unseen. Leadership doesn't even have to be finishing something; there are numerous masterpieces of art that are unfinished. Your contribution might be to create a new situation for others to lead from. You can lead without layers of new skills because it’s even possible to lead by subtraction. You can be the person who recognised the black swan event and knew its significance in challenging all other events.

Where to find leaders? Many leaders are the brave disabled volunteers for medical research. Others are in our own community doing unpaid care work. They are quite literally leading a life. Yet I ask myself again and again when will the Government's Office of Civil Society actually prioritise the recruitment of disabled people to its volunteering and civic leadership programmes? There are leaders to be found everywhere though there may not be leadership everywhere.

Now in 2022 we need new kinds of national leaders and more local leadership. How can the world's leaders invent one crisis after another when the only crisis that threatens our very existence is climate change. We need transformative leadership. Some of these new leaders are finding me via Linkedin and connecting to me, almost every day. People perhaps like Kanpalakasa Zero Chiley who has established a project teaching craft skills to refugees in Uganda. He is their Chief Executive Officer for transformational change. Transformative leaders have been defined by researchers like Bass, Aviola and others as leaders who spearhead moral causes and initiate trust and faith through personal example. The liberation struggles of many African and Asian countries has created a rich history of such leaders. I hope that the organisations people like Kanpalakasa are founding and connecting to me will become the springboards for their political careers. We in the UK need to learn from the leaders in the South. We need to find, connect and nurture our disabled transformational leaders.

In the UK there are some 12.3 million disabled people and six million carers, so numerate that their new leaders must already be amongst us. These new leaders are merging most amongst people with neurological challenges. The Government funds programmes to support civic leadership and trialled the "Enable Fund" to support access to reasonable adjustments so that more disabled councillors were likely to be elected. The fund also covered disabled candidates for the crime and disorder reduction commissioners too. Alas this supporting infrastructure was ended in 2020. In truth the pilot should have been extended to include "activism." That’s because almost all representation starts with a person being an activist. Could activism itself be accredited in a similar way to apprenticeships in advice and advocacy? Could activisms bedrock skills of advocacy, listening, presenting a case, winning an argument and so on, be accredited? Why not?

Well even I, or I should say especially I, know that leadership isn't just about knowing a process or a set of facts. It’s more often about working out what to do when the process doesn't work or when there are few available facts. Leadership requires us to solve problems and persuade others of the answer we have found and even before that we usually have to get someone's attention. The Disability Resilience Network offers you that attention. We aren't worried about whether someone has appointed you to a particular position in fact we are just as impressed by those who have volunteered or even those who have appointed themselves.

You have almost reached the end of the blog. Like a seasoned comedian I sneak a look at you the audience and make this aside. I know you are ready for what I am about to say. I share the stage with you. I also share the moment too. I know you have an idea, maybe more than one. No one has listened to you. You are considered too junior or burdened with the role of the tempered radical - the one person awkward squad or worse (no better I whisper) you are the maverick. You are different but really you are the difference. Don't waste that realisation. By now your inner voice is too loud to be contained. Let it out. Don't keep it in. Let the world see. See of the love, love thats in you.. Start your own disability staff networks. Be a leader. Demonstrate leadership. Align that network that you have formed with the Disability Resilience Network (DRN). As our leaders, new, local and different, you can lead a mass movement. A movement dedicated to transformative change. A change in the status of all disabled people.

Tell us of your ambition to lead or promote an idea. Visit www.disabilityresiliencenetwork.com and complete and submit the form that's there. Don't forget to tell us where your network is based and who else is in it.

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