Shed the Deficit Model of Leadership: A Q+A with Timotheus “T.J.” Gordon Jr. (Class of 2022)

T.J. Gordon
October 7, 2022

T.J. is a 2022 Fellow and Ambassador for Disability Lead. We had a chance to get T.J.'s reflection on his experience and connection to the Network. For more information about the 2023 Institute and application, please visit:

Question: What led you to apply to the Institute?
Answer: My primary motivation for applying was my desire to connect with disabled people in Chicago who are doing great things for their fields and community just like me, and help each other continue to grow and be successful as a league of extraordinary leaders.
Q: What was the application process like?
A: The application process was flexible; I was able to not only display all what I have brought to the table up to that point, but also display what I can bring to the table, how I could network with my colleague, and what I would like to explore professionally. I used the process to tell my story.
Q: Tell us what your experience was like during your time at the Institute?
A: I had a blast at the Institute! Not only was it the place where I realized that I have more strengths to contribute than I thought, but also where I learned situations where I could improve on the hidden strengths. I appreciated learning to shed the notion of the deficit model of leadership, where there’s only a strength and weakness. Additionally, I appreciated the times where we got the chance to break out into smaller groups and connect with fellow cohort members. I still have strong connections with my cohort members now.
Q: How has Disability Lead supported you leading with power, influence, and change?
A: Disability Lead supported my growth in leadership and influence through creating opportunities and professional development that centers on my strengths, as well as connecting with mentors in the fields I’m in that can help me mature through developing new skill sets and opportunities based on my strengths.
Q: What advice do you have for potential applicants?
A: What the heck are you waiting for? APPLY. Even if you feel that you are not worthy to be among members and fellows within your cohort. I felt insecure about applying first. But I’m glad I stuck to my goal and applied to be in the Institute. Regardless of experience level, Disability Lead is a great group to be around for networking and building tools to be a leader in your fields. Plus we all support each other.