Paul Wilden CMgr CCMI grew up with what most people might consider substantial disadvantages. He was born with a congenital birth defect called “microtia atresia” that meant his right ear was effectively missing and, as a result, was profoundly deaf on the right side.
As a child he underwent multiple, painful, surgeries to create an ear and was told he would struggle academically as he would miss too much in the classroom. He felt very self conscious about the appearance of his ear and grew his hair to hide it – something which eventually became a source of bullying at school. To compound matters, he was also dealing with his sexuality and came out as gay on his early 20's.
He knew that in order to come to terms with not only his ear, but also his sexuality, he needed time away from home, so packed his bags and travelled to New Zealand and Australia on a working holiday visa. Around 6 months into the trip, he decided it was time to embrace and stop hiding from who he really was. So he took a deep breath, made an appointment at a hairdresser’s in Sydney and cut his hair short for the first time, revealing his right ear to the world.
But despite his worries, no-one seemed to notice or indeed care what his ear looked like. Similarly, when he later came out as gay to both his parents and friends, it wasn’t the disaster he imagined it would be. Having finally come to terms with both aspects of his identity, he had the strength of character needed to then focus on his career.
The challenge of today’s leaders when focusing on diversity and inclusion is the tendency to view people according to just one characteristic when in reality people are an amalgam of different features
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