Throughout the course of the last several weeks, there has been a lot said about the importance of leadership. Whether it be about Elon Musk and Twitter, Sam Backman-Fried at FTX, or the return of Bob Iger at Disney. As we sprint toward the end of the year it has become more apparent why the true value of skilled leadership is more central to the growth of a healthy organization. Businesses in this new COVID reality are forced to reassess what the future of good leadership looks like. This is the moment when we should look at a new template to enhance business culture and shed light on a changing disability narrative.
While there has been an awakening around the business case of disability and a new appreciation for diversity, equity, and inclusion and the role of ESG investing, we are still very much in the nascent stage of the role that disability plays in the larger context of business practice. This is no longer just about hiring, or even the business case, this is a case of leadership. The significance of the disability narrative as it relates to business leadership is finally here. It is time for organizations to wake up and see the inherent worth that this new paradigm can offer. The disability narrative reframes the leadership story by exhibiting new ways to reflect on areas from empathy to imagination, and adaptation. It is these areas and others that are needed to galvanize what the future of governance will look like in the economic reality of the days ahead.
As we peer deeper into how the disability narrative can influence leadership strategy, a key element that cannot go unnoticed is the idea of knowledge sharing. It is not only sharing what is needed but rather exploring the idea of reverse mentorship as the backbone to help break down barriers and define new avenues by translating lived experience into innovative business strategies.
Reverse mentorship is a relatively new concept gaining traction within the business community. Focusing on intergenerational collaboration and knowledge sharing this process offers a novel management style that sees parity across the generational divide. From a VP of finance receiving mentorship to a junior analyst on the latest fin-tech trends or a millennial teaching a baby boomer how to use Snapchat as a marketing channel, the benefits of this type of relationship is garnering significant buy-in from CEOs, VPs, and other senior leadership. It is this very concept that should be explored by businesses and the disability community alike to rethink how to better communicate and more importantly how to have a greater appreciation for their organizational value.
Using this model of reverse mentorship provides a way to jumpstart the process and open lines of communication to mitigate the psychological residue of the stigma that continues to persist. Alleviating this enduring stumbling block within business practice will allow the disability community access to a real presence in leadership roles in a truly authentic way.
Leadership is the next frontier in the dance between business and disability. It is the mechanism by which we can open the floodgates for greater possibilities for better workforce opportunities, upskilling, innovative management strategies, to the development of new products and services. This pivot offers a tectonic shift in the way persons with disabilities are truly seen as leadership material, and no longer need to hide in the shadows. It is this very understanding that the lived experience of disability provides lessons in leadership that is a powerful elixir to the challenges that executives face in these uncertain economic times.
The disability narrative can be a potent ally to the future of business culture. Cultivating leaders with disabilities is an opportunity that all businesses must take seriously if they want to stay competitive in this perpetually changing economic environment. This is a call to all business leaders, what tools are you using in 2023 and beyond to innovate and transform your organization? How is disability leadership playing a part in shaping your business?
In the next Mindset Matters column, we will touch upon some of the issues further and shed light on the inextricable need for leadership and disability to be linked through the implications of what Hellen Keller thought when she wrote “The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.”