Development priorities

Disability Leadership

by Jo Verrent and Sarah Pickthall

Set up at the interface between disability and leadership, Sync was designed from the outset to be different - not only a leadership development programme for disabled people, but also a resource on leadership that would be of interest and relevance to a wider community. Established by two freelance practitioners, Jo Verrent and Sarah Pickthall, Sync has been one of CLP’s pathways to supporting diversity in leadership, and the programme takes both its inspiration and name from syncopation – the emphasis on a usually un-emphasised beat.

As disabled leaders and influencers themselves, Verrent and Pickthall wanted to design a programme that took disability out of the ‘ghetto’ and offered a sense of power, control and influence to its participants.  Not in an overt sense, but instead with respect to individual journeys: to engage in conversations that would invigorate its community; to develop a renewed set of approaches to challenge the barriers experienced in their working lives; and to create resources for others to do the same. 

Crucially they wanted to bring the positive aspects of the disability experience to the forefront, believing that the way in which many disabled leaders navigate their world could also bring useful insights and resources for leadership applicable to a wider audience. There are now over 200 members of Sync, all with different disabilities and all with different political ways of viewing their disability, impairment or health condition.

Authored by Verrent and Pickthall, this discursive essay is a collection of both new and existing thoughts that reflect how they embrace the diverse collective that is Sync.  It highlights some of the underlying principles of the programme: their approach to access, for example, and their focus on internal reflection and ‘dialogue with self’ that is engendered through the Sync coaching approach. In a ‘patchwork’ approach, this essay contains edited transcripts from Sync Thinking (a day celebrating the impact of Sync which took place on 9th March at the Wellcome Collection in London), alongside other elements, which are unique to this document.

As this essay explores, Sync offers the opportunity to gain refreshed perspectives – for both disabled and non-disabled people – and it offers the chance to reposition disability within the leadership context, not as a negative, but as a positive experience, broadening the concept of leader and the ways in which leadership itself can be identified and recognised.

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