6 Ways a Disabled Leader Can Be a Great Entrepreneur

The diversely-abled business leader brings problem-solving and innovative thinking to the role of entrepreneur.

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By Nancy Solari

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You may have never thought about the tenacity it takes to get through a day with a disability or a chronic condition, but as a differently-abled business leader, have you ever considered that your experiences thriving in your field with a disability can be leveraged to go beyond the limits of your role in business and take a step into entrepreneurship?

As society faces new and difficult challenges, leaders are calling for a divergent perspective, and your creativity, forged in making the impossible possible, might be what the world is looking for.

Related: These 4 Mindsets Will Help You Rise to Leadership Working with a Disability

Going beyond the "no"

As a diversely-abled business leader, remember how you tackled the problems your limitation brought into your life. When you hit a roadblock, you didn't stop. You made a move, asked questions and found a solution. You've overcome technical problems, mobility issues and insurance challenges. A strong disabled person doesn't take "no" as the final answer and doesn't accept the bad news as the end game. This is your superpower gene: you've already paid your dues, rising above the norm to out-think the system and force organizations and agencies to meet your needs. Perhaps now is the time to cash in all this experience and rise to the level of visionary, solving problems that others are satisfied to simply accept as fate.

The power of going beyond the "no," is the first giant leap in the path of an entrepreneur. Your unwillingness to accept the way things are, your vision of how things can be changed, and your will to assemble a team of creative thinkers to help solve problems can converge to create much-needed change.

The power of going beyond the "no," is the first giant leap in the path of an entrepreneur. Your unwillingness to accept the way things are, your vision of how things can be changed, and your will to assemble a team of creative thinkers to help solve problems can converge to create much-needed change.

Related: 6 Founders on When to Accept 'No,' and When to Persevere

Bringing the pioneer spirit

As a business leader, you understand the importance of fitting in with the corporate culture and playing by the rules. However, the most famous entrepreneurs are visionaries. Disabled people are drawn to entrepreneurship because they can do it their way. As a disabled leader, you likely uncovered work-a-rounds to enable you to contribute. You didn't rise to your position alone; you probably had a supportive staff and technological help. You had to get creative.

Your wisdom can now move you into the freedom of entrepreneurship. You can work where you want, delegate, work remotely or bring other innovators into a brick-and-mortar space; you can produce the product that will change the world or sell the concept. The entrepreneur and the diversely-abled person are willing to try a variety of things, willing to risk and willing to learn. As a disabled person, you aren't constrained; you've risen to leadership uncovering solutions and finding alternate working methods. This higher level of thinking is what it takes to start the entrepreneur pathway.

Related: Disability and Leadership: How to Meet the Needs of a Divergent Workforce

Unpacking your resourcefulness

While getting a diagnosis, dealing with a prognosis, or managing daily activities with a limitation, you've likely leveraged information, technology, and people to support and accommodate you in your journey. This is not a trivial set of skills. Resourcefulness is a critical component in the toolkit of the entrepreneur. You likely didn't own the expertise in every area of practice. As a disabled leader, you had to listen to the advice of practitioners, consider the red tape of insurance companies, get second opinions and make an informed decision about your care. These experiences of delegating, seeking counsel and using good judgment will guide your move into entrepreneurship.

As you step into the role of visionary, you will have to lead with your feet on the ground, and that means leveraging information, people, money and resources to bring big dreams to life. It's likely your life has been a dance between imagining a world without limitation and designing a world where limitations no longer stop people from living their dreams. This is the dance of the entrepreneur.

Related: 5 Ways Employees With Disabilities Help Maximize a Company's Growth

Raising your vibration

Beyond resourcefulness, a diversely-abled business leader can see a gap in the marketplace, an unserved demographic, an undeveloped technology. They see an unconventional way of doing things. They change the world. A dramatic example would be technology that allows amputee pilots to take off and land planes with their feet.

Think about your own ideas for innovating your work or home life. Many people take their disability and create a mission-driven non-profit. Some find starting their own business a way to "free" themselves from the limited perceptions that the "fully abled" often have. Those who have taken this leap of faith have discovered a resonance or "vibration" where diverse thinkers are welcome and creativity thrives. Crowdfunding, beta testers, student contributors, investors and volunteers: there are many ways to find the support you need to make your concept a reality.

You leveraged your gifts working for a company — now, invest that gift and take that visionary step; lead a team into new territory using what you already know and training others to question their perceptions.

Finding inspiration

With the revelations of famous divergent thinkers and celebrities who face health challenges, there is no shortage of social media content sure to inspire you to reach higher and dream bigger. The differently-abled produce short documentaries and videos, new music, art, and podcasts, sharing their way of thriving with a disability. A cursory search on YouTube uncovers Hip-Hop artists using their feet to make beats, researchers gathering a team of volunteers to see a new product through to manufacture, business leaders breaking down the way divergent thinking generates new ideas, paraplegics discussing a day in their lives, legally blind documentary makers sharing their world and a deaf technological prodigy explaining the new software that helps hearing and non-hearing people communicate more effectively with AI.

But you don't have to surf the internet when inspirational people are around you. As a leader with a disability, you know the power of networking. Find a group of diversely-abled people and take the time to listen to their stories; if you can't find such a group in your area, start one. It's important to get the perspectives of people who have walked your pathway and know what it's like to navigate life with a limitation. You can inspire and be inspired by showing up and encouraging others even as you are encouraged. Networking is inspiring because it allows brainstorming, collaboration, and fellowship, all of which bring inspiration.

Creating your legacy

As a leader with a limitation, you may have developed a condition, such as progressive vision loss, or you may have been born with a neurodivergence, such as dyslexia. Once you've found your frequency and tuned into the ideas of different thinkers, it's time to make things easier for those just now waking up to the reality of a disability. What can you create that will make a significant change? How can your team rethink, revolutionize and re-envision traditional products for ease of use?

Many people become entrepreneurs because they want to be change agents in the world, ensuring that those who walk in their shoes will find it a bit easier. It's important to consider what your career says about you. As a disabled business leader, you can focus money, people and time on the areas you most firmly believe in. You can take the lead, bringing the right people into the room to nurture the projects you have always wanted to complete. You can buck trends, changing the trajectory of technological research to benefit those who watch from the sidelines, waiting for you to rise to the penultimate position of leadership, the innovative helmsman positioned to change even the smallest things that pay off big in a challenged life.

Nancy Solari

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Living Full Out

Nancy Solari is an accomplished CEO, business and life coach, writer and motivational speaker. As host of the national radio show 'Living Full Out with Nancy Solari,' she shares her tools for success with audiences and organizations all around the country.

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