What is Inclusion?
WHY NOT LEAD?
A Primer for Families and
Other Grassroots Leaders
by Deb Reidy
A NEW Inclusion Press book for the spring of 2004
Leadership is a journey which begins with a decision to act. Along the way, the requisite tools and skills can be acquired, borrowed, or shared. Although personal traits such as charisma and organization are useful to the exercise of leadership, they are not central. Motivation or will is. Families of people with disabilities often begin their leadership journey reluctantly, but they are propelled by their motivation to ensure a decent life for their loved ones. Similarly, people with disabilities themselves know that it is they who must act to ensure that their needs are met.
Why Not Lead? A Primer for Families and Other Grassroots Leaders is written as a personal guide for people motivated to bring about positive change but needing some guidance on their journey. Why Not Lead? aims to call forth, prepare, and encourage people who find themselves in a position to exercise leadership because they are committed to a person or a cause that is important to them.
The book is based on the experiences of ordinary people who took on leadership roles because they were motivated to act. It is written in an easily accessible and practical format, combining case studies, clarifying concepts, and exercises.
Having played leadership roles in the field of disabilities for over twenty- five years, the author, Deborah Reidy, has integrated her own experiences and insights with dozens of ideas drawn from the academic and professional leadership literature. She addresses the title question "Why not lead?" as if she were a personal coach working with each individual reading the book. Drawing from her extensive experience teaching leadership to groups of families, people with disabilities and staff, as well as providing individual coaching to dozens of people, she leads the reader through a series of reflections, step-by-step. Initial chapters explore the question "leadership toward what?" assisting the reader to clarify the aim or intention of their effort. Further into the book, readers identify the obstacles to their exercise of leadership, including limiting beliefs about the nature of leadership. At this point, having personalized an abstract topic, a definition of leadership is introduced, along with other concepts such as main elements of leadership, the work of leadership, and so on. Then, readers are assisted to develop a Personal Leadership Plan. The book concludes with chapters on the pitfalls of grassroots leadership, and strategies for sustenance and renewal.
Although this book acknowledges the important role of leadership skills and traits, it takes a very different approach than most books on the topic. By emphasizing the crucial role that motivation plays in the exercise of leadership, it empowers people who often do not see themselves as having the required leadership qualities. And then, by "walking with" readers on their leadership journey, it provides a valuable framework for the acquisition of experiences and resources that contribute to skillful leadership.
If you have vignettes, stories or examples you would like to share with Deb - and who knows be part of her book - she would love to hear from you.