At a recent Woodstock Book Fest panel about autism, with a great friend of mine (co-founder of a fantastic school, The Center for Spectrum Services) Jamey Wolff as moderator, a question was mentioned to John Elder Robison, the author of Look me in the Eye, about what an autistic leader should have to inspire others.
It honestly gave me a reason to pause and reflect on my life, I know that I’ve often brushed aside the idea of myself being a leader, but the question of being qualified to be one seems to be one that I’ve been answering a lot these past couple of days.
The leaders I’ve been fascinated by always seem to be strong, self assured but aren’t afraid to be firm. The problem with that and Spectrumites I know, myself very much included, need help with self-worth, which includes self esteem and self-confidence.
We always think of others’ needs when we should think of our own needs, wants and desires. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be something we need to work on over time. John Elder Robinson’s answer to the question about Autistic leaders ring true, not only for Spectrumites, but for us all: Don’t look for leaders, be one yourself.
My local parish priest always says that a good leader should lead by example and it’s always been something that stuck with me. I’ve always brushed aside the notion of my being a leader because I’ve seen what power does to those ill-equipped for it: it ends up corrupting them. Napoleon from the Orson Wells satirical tale Animal Farm is one such example of how too much power can be a bad thing and because of that, I’ve always been modest when it comes to power or pride, in that sense.
But, here’s the point I bring up to my fellow Spectrumites, we should be proud in our accomplishments, no matter how large or small, we’ve come a very long way, not just personally as individuals but as a society. It wasn’t so long ago where Spectrumites like us would be put in institutions, where our talents would be lost at worse or go unknown at best. Hearing of the horror stories of people who were institutionalized make me winch, inwardly if not outwardly, but it shows me how lucky I am to be in a caring and thoughtful community.
That’s not to say, however, that we can’t do better. We should be volunteering and helping those less fortunate, we should be speaking up about issues that matter, standing up for the communities we live in, and most importantly, we should be leading by our examples and inspiring people that way. That way we can all do our part to help heal our wounds and help us all….