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Joann Johnson

Leadership and Advocacy

Starts with why

Throughout my whole life, like many others, I wanted to help others; but it wasn’t

until recently, that I realized I am a leader. Within the past two years, I have opened my

life up to an amazing job opportunity and that is Legacies. I have grown as a person and a

leader while being a Direct Support Professional. After reading some of Sineks book and

watching the Ted talk he conducted, it has made me think a lot about who I am as a

leader. The what, how and most importantly why, aspects of a persons drive, truly does

make a difference in how they are perceived as a leader. In this paper I will explain to

you, what makes me a leader.

Let me start with, the, why. This is the most important component to making a

great leader because this is the core to what drives me. The how and what come after, in a

good leader. Historically, people with disabilities were seen as sick and not normal within

society. They were set apart from people without disabilities or mental illness (Charlton,

56). People with disabilities of any kind have always been set apart and seen as if they

cannot do things on their own or live independently. Why do I do what I do? What is my

purpose in the field I am doing? These are questions of why. I believe in change. I

believe that individuals with mental health or disabilities of any kind can live normal

lives and I want to be someone who can show them that. I want to show others that

disabilities are not something that hinders you; in many cases it can better the person.

Truly, in my line of work, if I do not show people that I have a true meaning and passion

for advocating, they have no reason to put their faith in me as a leader. I want to be

working ten years from now and have an individual but his or her trust into me, and let

Joann Johnson

Leadership and Advocacy

Starts with why me help them live a better more successful life because they see my passion and believe

in themselves as much as I do. And as Sinek puts it, “The power of WHY is not an

option, its biology” (Sinek, 55). If you have a true passion for helping people, you feel it.

No question about it; it is part of who you are.

The next part to look at is the how, which is the second part of this three part

model. I know I have a passion for my WHY, but what count is my steps to get there.

How will I achieve this? How will I accomplish my WHY? In the future I want to be an

ally to people within the disabled community and also the mental health community.

Which in many respects can be counted as the same, within this paper. With being an

ally, I take a roll in the lives of the people within it. In Charlton’s book, he writes,

“People with disabilities…have come to a raised consciousness

of themselves not only people with disabilities but also as

oppressed people… they have become political activist because

through their raised consciousness they have become

empowered” (Charlton, 115).

I love this because I want everyone with a mental illness or disability to find his

or her passion for his/ herself. To see that they are amazing that they can achieve the

impossible, even when society doesn’t see that. In the book No Pity, it describes how

people with disabilities (mostly physical, but can be mental) do not want pity from others.

They want to be seen as equal (Shapiro). With my why stable and genuine, I will work

every day to advocate for people with mental illness and people who are disabled. My

team and I will work with these individuals and create a plan to help them enhance parts

Joann Johnson

Leadership and Advocacy

Starts with why of their lives. We will accommodate to each individual and help him or her as much as

needed. Not only will my team and I help people with disabilities, but also we will

educate ourselves and work on our selves. After all, knowledge is power.

Lastly, I will work on my what. This is the last ring in Sineks circles. I am

still working on my what. Many people know what they want to do with their career,

what company they want to work for and where; I do not. But, I do know I want to work

for a company who shares the same values I do. I want their end goal to look similar to

mine and I want to grow with the company while they grow with me as well. I will

delicate my career to working towards mental illness. I will work everyday to better my

life, and others lives. As an advocate I will strive for the best for the people I serve and

enhance their wellbeing. For a period of time, in my career, I want to work on small

advertisements working on showcasing the more positive views of mental illness. In

media they are portrayed in a negative way and that does have a huge impact on how the

rest of society views mental illness. Haller explains this in her book, called, Representing

disability in an ableist world. She talks about how media showcases disabled individuals,

rarely, and when they do it is not for an informational purpose (Haller, 202). I want to

make small steps, to show society that mental illness isn’t something taboo. A great way

for me to do that is to work with mental illness and to start with the media; since it is a

large part of society.

In this paper I have talked about the HOW, WHAT, and WHY of my life. I have

talked about my passion and what I want to do with that passion. I may not know what I

want to do exactly with one company, but I want to grow in a few different ones. To

Joann Johnson

Leadership and Advocacy

Starts with why conclude, I would also like to say that I agree with a lot of what Sinek points out; but I do

have one point that I would tweak. In Northouse, it explains that, “Leadership is not liner

one-way event, but rather an interactive event” (Northouse, 6). I don’t believe that in

order to be a leader, you have to work within a group of people. People can be leaders,

with one person or a group. I believe I am leader, now. Being a leader is more of a state

of mine and certain level of knowledge and experience.

In Sineks book he writes, “Every instruction we give, every course of action we

set, every result we desire, starts with the same thing: a decision” (Sinek, 15). This is

important because to be a great leader you have to make decisions for yourself and the

group or individual you are leading. Those decisions will not be easy all the time, but

they will be beneficial for you and the people you care about the most. Being an advocate

has a lot of hard grunt work put into it. But, what matters is that outcomes to that hard

work. No matter where I end up working in the world, or no matter the company I serve

at, I will always have my WHY. I will always have a purpose, cause and a belief in what

I am doing. That will carry me through anything in my life.

Work cited

Charlton, I. J. (1998). Nothing about us without us. Berkeley: University of California.

Joann Johnson

Leadership and Advocacy

Starts with why Haller, A. B. (2010). Representing disability in a ableist world. Louisville, Kentucky:

The Advovado Press.

Northhouse, G. P. (2016). Leadership: theory and practice. (7): western Michigan


Shapiro, P. J. (1993). No Pity: People with disablilities forging a new cilival rights

movement. New York: Times.

Sinek, S. ( 2009). Start with why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New

York: Portfolio.