Blind Ambition Author and Champion Paratriathlete Shared Leadership Principles at the American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference

When keynote speaker Patricia Walsh took the stage at the American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference (AFBLC), it seemed all were fully engaged and unquestionably riveted. This year’s conference had a record number of attendees, and I’m confident I’ve never heard any AFBLC audience as quiet as when Walsh shared her anything-but-dull Paralympic adventures of epic proportion.

I have the mental image of Patricia laying on top of her bike in the back seat of a mini SUV [rear hatch open, mind you!] with her running guide [yes, she is totally blind] speeding to the triathlon. You see, her bags, which held her uniform and disassembled bike, had been lost by the airline, and Patricia and her guide, wearing makeshift, piecemeal “uniforms” which were almost prepped with puffy paint race numbers, received her equipment with minutes to spare. Patricia scrambled to assemble the bike, only to realize it didn’t fit in the SUV. She used her body weight to secure the bike and off the duo zoomed to the starting line. Patricia may have been jarred—but that didn’t stop her from a record-breaking win!

Yes, she certainly had our attention.

Guiding Principles of Leadership

Patricia shifted gears and shared her career journey as an [award-winning, mind you] engineer, which was somehow as captivating as her adventures, and the leadership principles she’s learned along the way. Here are her guiding principles that we are wise to absorb:

  • We must have good communication—Say what we mean to say; listen to other people intently; speak to our audience with a level of awareness of our audience; and trust our audience is competent. You can learn more about communicating on the job as a person who is blind or visually impaired.

  • We must see the strength of others. Find the strengths of others and utilize the strengths of others. You can learn more about group success and social capital and motivating a team by recognizing their “personality colors”.

  • If we solve big problems, we need a team. One person should not attempt to accomplish it all, but rather rally a team to group success. You can learn more about influencing others and solving problems at work.

  • Commit to excellent execution. Whatever it is you do, do it well. This may mean taking on less! You can learn more about when to say “No” at work and improving job performance as one who is blind or visually impaired.

  • Become comfortable being uncomfortable. This one hit home for me. We all have a level of anxiety about taking on new job responsibilities. Regarding this, Ms. Walsh stated, “People ask me about being fearlessness, but I have fear every day. I have fear of being less than, fear with crossing streets, fear of getting lost in an airport, etc. That’s human condition. You’re going to need to learn strategies to move on and propel yourself forward. Emotional and human element is how to bring anxiety back home instead of getting frustrated and quitting (when I do this, I regret it). I don’t want to quit because I gave up.” You can learn more about pushing your limits and taking measured risks, developing grit, and how to beat work-related stress when you are blind or visually impaired.

What a treasure it is to glean from Patricia Walsh, who is at her core, a leader. Remember, a leader is one who influences others can captivate and influence us she did effortlessly.

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