This blog is on topics of interest to early career professionals who work with people with disabilities. Blog contributors have diverse perspectives on leadership, professional development, and success in changing systems to better serve people with disabilities and their families. For more information on Early Career Professionals, check out the website:

15 May, 2012

Opportunities Multiply as they are Seized

Most of you know me as the 2011-2012 AUCD Virtual Trainee, some of you know me as the AZLEND Trainee and Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Arizona… fewer of you know me as the advocate, change agent, and aunt of two nephews with autism.

Today I write with my AZLEND Trainee ‘hat’ on:

During our AZLEND inaugural year, we read “The Leadership Challenge” -- Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner collected thousands of "Personal Best" stories—the experiences people recalled when asked to think of a peak leadership experience.

Despite differences in people's individual stories, their leadership experiences seemed to reveal similar patterns of behavior—the authors found that when leaders are at their personal best, they: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart

AUCD Trainees and Early Career Professionals, when thinking of how you can hone your leadership skills, consider how you might:

1. Model the Way—Leaders establish principles concerning the way people should be treated and the way goals should be pursued. They create standards of excellence and then set an example for others to follow. The prospect of complex change can overwhelm people and stifle action; leaders set interim goals so that people can achieve small wins as they work toward larger objectives. Leaders also (a) unravel bureaucracy when it impedes action, (b) provide direction when people are unsure of where to go or how to get there, and (c) create opportunities for victory.

2. Inspire a Shared Vision—Leaders passionately believe that they can make a difference. Leaders envision the future, creating an ideal and unique image of what their organization, school, or workplace can become. Through their magnetism and quiet persuasion, leaders enlist others in their dreams. They breathe life into their visions and get people to see exciting possibilities for the future.

3. Challenge the Process—Leaders search for opportunities to change the status quo. They look for innovative ways to lead and improve the situation around them. In doing so, they experiment and take risks. And because leaders know that risk-taking involves mistakes and failures, they accept the inevitable disappointments as learning opportunities.

4. Enable Others to Act—Leaders foster collaboration, build spirited teams and actively involve others. Leaders understand extraordinary efforts are built on mutual respect and they strive to create an atmosphere of trust and human dignity. They strengthen those around them—making everyone feel capable and powerful.

5. Encourage the Heart—Not only your heart, but the hearts of others you lead, work with, collaborate with, supervise, or just come into contact with. To keep hope and determination alive, leaders recognize contributions that individuals make. As part of a winning team, members need to share in the rewards of their efforts, so leaders celebrate accomplishments. They make people feel like heroes.

I close with a favorite quote of mine: “Opportunities Multiply as they are Seized”—Sun Tzu. This could not more perfectly represent my experiences as the 2011-2012 AUCD Virtual Trainee, the AZLEND Trainee and Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Arizona, and the advocate, change agent, and aunt of two nephews with autism. I am so happy I have been afforded so many opportunities and that I seized those opportunities as they were presented. Opportunities have definitely multiplied for me as I hope they do for you—I am blessed and I wish you all well.