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Leadership from a different perspective – Rob Trent

Leadership from a different perspective – Rob Trent

Naked Leader Week – 271 – Monday 18 August 2008

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Leadership from a different perspective – Rob Trent

What could I possibly add to this…

I’ll start with a quote from a paper written by a late friend: “Independence is not necessarily about doing everything yourself. Independence is about taking control of your life and choosing how that life is led.”

 This is a brief story about how I took control of my life.

 I’m in my late forties, married, with a family. I work full-time. My hobbies are painting, football (as a spectator) and taking family holidays. Oh, and I’m disabled. I was born with a disability which left me with very little use of my arms or legs. No-one else in my family has a similar disability.

 Why me? I guess I got lucky.

 By the time I started at a ‘special’ school, I had learnt how to write holding a pen between my teeth. School was rubbish. I left with a handful of CSE’s. I also left school with a stubborn streak. Frustrated with relying on other people, I developed my independence by ‘project managing’ my life. If I wanted to go anywhere (football matches, concerts) I would prepare meticulously by telephoning various train and taxi companies to ensure that I ended up at the right place and on time.

 I later used the experience of visiting almost all football league grounds to work alongside various Football authorities to improve facilities for disabled people.

 A lengthy period of Further Education culminated in the achievement of a Higher National Diploma in Computer Studies. Despite that, I was once told that I would “probably only be any good at book-binding”. Thankfully I ignored that careers advice. Eventually I got my first job, moved away from home and lived in accommodation supported by round the clock personal assistants.

 Within a year I had found another job, this time within the Civil Service. My career started in IT as a software developer. I had taught myself to type by hitting the keys with a stick held in my mouth (thank goodness for the ‘Sticky Keys’ feature in Windows). I used the learning from my B. Sc., in Information Systems to eventually develop my career outside of IT.  

 I was once told I was ‘too disabled’ to drive. Thanks to the Government sponsored  “Motability” scheme, I now have a vehicle which I drive from my wheelchair using a combination of hand and foot controls. I’ve been driving for four years, have travelled over 50,000 miles in 4 years and am now doing things I’ve wanted to, including – school runs, “disco taxi”, job interviews, training courses and even the weekly shopping.

 I still set myself new challenges. I’m currently undertaking public speaking sessions about my life, in the hope that my story can encourage others. I’ve been doing some coaching, as I would love to help others become whatever they want to be.

 When you’re born with a disability there’s a host of people who know what’s best. All of the above were things that some people told me I could never achieve. I had a simple choice. Either I could choose to accept a life others thought I should live, or I could do whatever I wanted.

 I’m still choosing the latter.

 Thank you Rob, thank you




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