Possibility leadership

By Minnie Baragwanath, Global Centre of Possibility
16 Jul 2021
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Reframing conventional notions of leadership

The social and economic benefits of accessibility are key to building successful businesses and communities in the 21st century and beyond. 

There are two writers on leadership that inform much of our work at the Global Centre of Possibility.

Peter Block, founder of Designed Learning, defines leadership as the power of putting together two things that have never been put together before in order to create something entirely new.

Leadership writer and facilitator Margaret Wheatley frames leadership as being what happens when we see something that needs addressing – something we can no longer unsee, and are called to take action on it. Whether this is putting an end to social injustice, the opportunity to create something generative and of beauty in the world, or to call out something truly unacceptable going on.

She also asserts that leaders in the modern world need to embody certain key qualities including gentleness, decency and bravery. These qualities we rarely, if ever, see celebrated let alone played out on the global political stage, yet are the very best of what makes us human. 

At the Global Centre of Possibility, we have defined Possibility Leadership as “the capacity to believe in and imagine a future of possibility, beyond current limiting paradigms and beyond current concepts of disability and accessibility.”

Who is leadership available to?

Through these lenses, leadership is available to everyone – not just the powerful and elite. Further, it is richly available within all aspects of our society and communities. The opportunity is to know leadership when we see it, to value it and to support it to its fruition.

But we continue to look for leadership in all the wrong places, and therefore reinforce old paradigms that no longer serve us or our society and, in doing so, we overlook those who have something new or of incredible value to contribute to our organisations and communities.

From a disability to a possibility world view

In our work at the Global Centre of Possibility we aim to dismantle the"disability world view" which sees access citizens as broken, as “other," and a cost or burden. We aim to reframe the understanding of accessibility to one which recognises we all have access needs and can all benefit from a more equitable society.

In shifting to the "possibility world view" we are leading, designing and innovating all aspects of our future society and economy through a powerful and transformative lens of what is possible.

Possibility in Aotearoa 

What can possibility leadership offer Aotearoa during this time of change and uncertainty?

If ever there were a group of people who are  skilled in navigating ambiguity, it is the access community. Having to problem solve on a daily basis due to a lack of access to products and services – and developing resilience in the face of a lack of the resources needed to flourish – is what makes this community a unique and invaluable part of our society.

Perhaps it is time we paid attention to access citizens and started looking to them for new kinds of leadership. What could the access community – the "possibility community" – bring to your board, your management team, communities and Aotearoa as we navigate this tumultuous time together?


This article is an extract from Minnie Baragwanath's two part blog Leading through possibility.

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About the author

Minnie Baragwanath is Chief Possibility Officer of the Global Centre of Possibility and founder and trustee of the Be. Institute. 

Minnie has been leading and innovating as a social entrepreneur in accessibility for over 25 years. She has been awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit, the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award, the Westpac Women of Influence Diversity award, the Zonta women’s award, and was placed as a top 10 finalist for the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

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