Campus Student Groups

Student Leadership Guidebook

Leadership Frequently Asked Questions

What is a leader?

A leader is an individual who guides other people or organizations in a certain direction or on a charted course. A leader directs the operations or activities of a group of people. Leadership is critical in any organization, because without leadership, organizations and people tend to go astray. Civil rights organizations serving people from minority groups, women, and others have been able to make significant strides because they have had persons within their ranks that were able to lead and advocate.

Why be a leader and an advocate within the disability community?

It is important that persons from the disability community become leaders. Currently there are too few individuals within the disability community who have taken on the mantle of leadership and it is critical that an increasing number of persons with disabilities take on leadership roles. Leaders must also advocate for the empowerment, rights, and privileges of persons with disabilities. Existing leaders and advocates are role models for other persons with disabilities.

What does leadership entail?

Leadership entails being a responsible, strong-willed, and strong-minded person. Leaders must show strength and yet be willing to compromise when necessary. Having good interpersonal and human relation skills is essential. Leaders must be able to persuade other people to rally for causes when necessary. Good leadership requires that persons be well informed about issues that impact on them and their constituents. Being a good leader also requires working in the trenches along with comrades. Good leaders must be motivators, negotiators, and consensus builders. Good leaders must always be concerned about the welfare of comrades. Effective leaders must always be able to communicate with comrades, government, the private sector, and political leaders.

Can I be a leader and a follower?

One of the most frequent questions raised by persons with disabilities is, "Can I be a Leader?" Yes, you can be a leader and a follower, often at the same time. Too often, leaders make the critical mistake of not wanting to be followers. Good leaders are also good listeners. A good listener pays attention to the concerns of others, and a sensitive leader remains attuned to the needs of his/her constituents. Leaders emerge from the ranks of followers and often continue as followers of others. Every leader must fall in line with others and work in the background. Every great leader has sought and acted upon advice from followers and has merged the roles of following and leading.

How can you become involved and utilize your leadership skills?

You might ask yourself, "How can I get involved and use my leadership skills?" You can and should get involved to advocate for yourself and others. Here are a few suggested ways of getting involved:

  • Become involved in local campus activities including, but not limited to, disabled student organizations;
  • Start campus groups and organizations, if they do not already exist;
  • Volunteer for boards, run for a position on your students' council or other campus organizations to put the views of persons with disabilities into accessibility plans;
  • Attend open sessions of Senate and Board of Governors. Participate, to the extent possible, by asking questions or writing follow-up letters to members of these bodies;
  • Participate, to the extent possible, in the administrative process at the campus level and in local, provincial, and national issues as well. For example, get involved in consultations about funding programs for students with disabilities;
  • Lobby local, provincial, and national governmental bodies and officials to introduce and promote the passage of legislation that will be beneficial to persons with disabilities;
  • Join local disability groups in your community and actively participate in them (e.g. organizations for persons with hearing and visual impairments, persons with various disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Polio, etc., and local Independent Living Centres);
  • Seek appointments to serve on campus, local, provincial or national governmental boards and councils (e.g. school boards, neighbourhood advisory councils, advisory boards for persons with disabilities, transportation committees, etc.);
  • Seek elected office if you desire to do so and write letters to editors of newspapers, magazines, and television and radio stations concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities.

These are only a few suggestions of how you can become involved. You can think of as many ways as possible to become involved and attempt to effect change for the empowerment and betterment of people with disabilities.