FOR Steph Cutler, it’s not so much a case of he who dares wins as those who take a chance in life can prosper.
Steph, who experienced unexpected sight loss in 2003 and has been an inspiration ever since, is a ‘doer’ who thinks people can benefit from ‘putting their head above the parapet’ to discover different options which otherwise they may miss out on.
Her mantra is evidenced by her being accepted on to the 2016 Clore Social Leadership Programme.
The Programme offers a unique opportunity for a year of personal development which she plans to use as a springboard for the next 10 years.
It is a multi-faceted, holistic approach to developing people which includes coaching, residentials, Action Learning and a 360 review.
Every year aspiring social leaders from across the UK apply to become one of the Clore Social Fellows. After a competitive application process, around 20 are selected to become part of the next cohort of social leaders. Why? Because those behind the Programme believe people are the ones who create social change. Developing effective, resilient leaders will make for stronger, better led organisations, and leadership that transforms lives.
Becoming partially sighted unleashed a passion in Steph as she looked only for the positives in her new-found situation which helped her launch her own business, Making Lemonade (www.making-lemonade.co.uk), 10 years ago.
Rather than impede her ability to see the big picture, her plight made her more determined to succeed to the point where, these days, she picks out the oils and acrylics of her choice and creates a masterpiece of her own imagination on the canvas.
Since then, this remarkable woman, who ‘worked hard and played hard’ as a highly-successful fashion designer prior to her diagnosis, has prompted such comments as: “Steph provides unrivalled levels of support, going far beyond any other business mentor I have ever encountered” and “when I started my business I was not too confident, but being mentored by Steph for a year gave me that drive and now I can overcome whatever I can think of.”
She radiates positivity in her role as a business leadership and life coach, motivational speaker and personal and professional development trainer, who shares her experiences in how to overcome obstacles, with an expertise in the field of disability.
No jargon, no buzzwords, Steph prefers people to paperwork.
As author of a book entitled Living With More Vision and Less Sight, Steph was selected and is certainly leading by example as she embarks on this exciting next chapter in her life.
‘It’s not always something that you get the opportunity to take on, because there is no time, we all live busy lives,” she reflects. ‘I thought I’d apply and it’s nice to be chosen as someone with leadership potential. Ten years after setting up by business it has come at a good time for me. It’s very exciting.’
Times of reflection are precious and Steph realises how fortunate she is to be able to accept a bursary-funded role. She plans to embrace it.
‘It’s nice to take stock of how far we’ve come, see where we are now, and to give ourselves a pat on the back,’ she says. ‘We can get bogged down with our lives and it’s nice to explore new options and sometimes to do that, you have to take a chance.
“What we are doing may well be the right thing for us and we may be happy with that but without trying something new we won’t know what we might be missing out on.
‘We should all take time out where possible to see where it is we want to go.’
The Naked Leader ethos knowing where you are now, where you want to get to and how you are going to get there and applying that principle has paid dividends for Steph.
‘I have always been good at setting goals for myself and that’s exactly what I did when I started my business,’ she adds.
‘Who knows, I may take my business in a different direction but I’m going into this next year with an open mind.
‘Initially I’ll see where it takes me and I’m not setting any goals. That’s half the fun of it, being able to embrace where it takes me and enjoy the challenge. Perhaps after six months I will focus in a bit more on what it is I want to achieve and where I might want to make changes.’
Change is something Steph has had to face head on in her life and asking her if she feels sorry for herself would be like asking former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson if he prefers trains and planes to automobiles.
She prefers to see her sight loss as a blessing.
‘It has given me lots of things that I wouldn’t be without, and my business is definitely one of those things,’ says a stoic person who despite her disability remains a visionary.