Episode 48:

Are you an Inclusion Linchpin?

Date released: June 2013. Updated:  September 2013; September 2017


What does it mean to be a Linchpin of Inclusion? Chances are, if you are reading this then you are a Linchpin of Inclusion yourself. In this episode we examine what this means and what it takes to be a Linchpin. We hear from a short baldy guy legend on the subject!

Have you ever heard of Seth Godin? A short baldy-headed marketing guy? Nope!

Well you are in for a treat—he’s a legend!

The Inclusion Club—Episode48 Cover

Seth has been a busy guy—written 14 books that have been translated into 30 languages. They are all bestsellers. He writes about a lot of things but, according to his blog, he writes mostly about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. The American Way magazine describes him as ‘America’s Greatest Marketer’

What’s that got to do with inclusion of people with disability in sport and active recreation?

Let me explain.

One of Seth’s books is called Linchpin.

According to Seth “the linchpin is an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen”.

Isn’t inclusion about invention, connection, creating and making things happen?

Many Inclusion Club subscribers have a lot of experience as practitioners of inclusion. They have studied inclusion. They have talked endlessly about it. They have delivered workshops, speeches, lectures, chaired meetings and produced some fantastic resources.

In short, they are linchpins of inclusion. In all likelihood, if you are reading this you are a linchpin yourself. Do others come to you for advice? Do you connect others to create inclusive sport and physical activity? Do you create and make things happen? I bet you do. Whether you work internationally, nationally or locally, as a linchpin you are an important person.

“The word ‘linchpin’ is used figuratively to mean ‘something [or someone] that holds the various elements of a complicated structure together…’”


You were not born to be a linchpin though. You learnt it. And like anything you learn, you can get better at it. There are also a few pitfalls to being a linchpin. Traps that you can fall into if you are not careful. You could end up achieving the opposite of what you want and excluding people from new opportunities.

What it Takes to be a Linchpin?

So, what is your role as a linchpin? What are the characteristics and pitfalls of being a linchpin? Next, we’ll take some of Seth’s ideas and throw in a few of our own, and apply them to your role as a linchpin of inclusion. There are seven hallmarks of a linchpin of inclusion.

Linchpins as Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen

In Where Opportunities Knocks we talked about Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen as key to creating inclusive environments and places. The Connectors are those people who link people and bring communities together. These people are indispensable in that they bring people together for a particular purpose. Connectors understand the power of networks and the strength of weak ties. A Maven is a knowledge broker. It is a Yiddish word that means ‘one who accumulates knowledge’. These are the people that have a deep understanding and how inclusion works. And the Salesmen are the motivators that inspire and ‘sell’ the idea of inclusion to non-believers or sceptics.

Since the publication of Where Opportunity Knocks many of my experienced colleagues have said that they are a bit of all three and can play the role of Connector, Maven or Salesmen, depending on the circumstances at the time. This is true because they are Linchpins of inclusion. A Linchpin is someone that can play these roles and can adapt to different circumstances.

Being uniquely creative

In the last two episodes we looked at creativity and inclusion. Naturally, as a linchpin you are creative. We suggested that adapting and modifying sport and physical activity programs is often a creative process. As a linchpin you have the opportunity to be uniquely creative. You can lean on your experience and domain knowledge. You can see things that others can’t. You see solutions when others see problems. Part of this role is the lack of fear to being wrong. But your passion and your knowledge allows you to persist and be uniquely creative.

Demystifying complexity

Inclusion can be a complex issue. When things are complex you cannot follow a plan because nobody has invented a plan for your complex situation. Linchpins can unravel complexity and demystify complex situations. I few years ago I worked at a summer sports camp. A typical sports day could mean organising 90-100 young people from multiple countries into different activity stations. There was little time to be organised and many competing demands. You constantly had people asking questions, you had equipment issues, language issues and countless logistical challenges. Some of the young people had disabilities. There were few staff members that could handle the sports day. Linchpins could not only handle the day, but also found time to adapt ‘on the fly’ for the young people with disabilities. Linchpins are able to see through the mist of complex situations, think on their feet, and understand what needs to be done. They do not lose focus on inclusion in complex situations.

Being a leader and facilitator


stacks_image_853Now, there’s an awful lot written about leadership. A lot of rubbish too! Most of us have an idea about leadership. But, there is no script for leadership, particularly in this field. Where people are uncertain and looking for advice and guidance then they are looking for someone to follow – someone to tell them what to do! As a leader you can do that. BUT – and it’s a BIG BUT – if they keep coming to you and they get to depend on you – then you are not doing your job as a leader of inclusion. Leadership in a factory may be about telling people what to do. But leadership on inclusion is more about facilitation and empowerment. If someone you have been mentoring stops coming to you for advice then more than likely you have done a good job!

Inspiration by shipping

Seth talks a lot about ‘shipping’. At The Inclusion Club we have a focus on shipping! What does this mean? Essentially, it means that linchpins deliver. They deliver original thought. They deliver tangible products. They deliver presentations. They ‘ship’ their commitment to inclusion in multiple different ways. In doing so they spread the word, they educate, train, motivate and cajole people to consider different aspects of inclusion. About time we heard from Seth himself on shipping. Below is an interview he did with TechCrunch not long after publishing Linchpin in 2011.

What it Takes to be a Linchpin?

Do you see how prolific a shipper Seth is? To be a linchpin of inclusion you need to ship. You need to ship away from your work. Away from the workshop or lesson. You ship anytime from anywhere. On a Sunday or while on holiday. An important point that Seth makes here is that linchpins do not follow instructions. They make their own instructions. By making their own choices about shipping, linchpins ultimately inspire others to act and make a difference.

Being a Giver

stacks_image_450Linchpins are ‘Givers.’ They freely give their experience, time and domain knowledge without any expectation of receiving anything in return. In this way they are highly successful people in the area of inclusion. In his book Give and Take, Adam Grant explores the role of givers, matchers and takers in society and in business. As a giver you act entirely in the interests of others, such as by giving help, providing mentoring or providing connections to others. As a matcher you give in the expectation that you will receive something comparable in return. And as a taker your priority interest is in what you receive back for giving anything in the first place. He argues, with a good deal of evidence, that givers are most often the people that are truly successful in their fields. Linchpins of inclusion must be givers by nature of their role and commitment.

Using your Status

Now this does not mean linchpins have celebrity or social status. But linchpins have domain knowledge and current relevant authority. That’s powerful and can make a difference. So it deserves to be used. If a linchpin is invited to be a keynote speaker at an international conference, he or she accepts and relishes the opportunity to contribute. Linchpins don’t shy away and think they are not competent or don’t deserve the opportunity. They go outside their comfort zone because they know they can make a contribution and a difference. Linchpins chose themselves to be leaders rather than waiting for someone else to ask them to be a leader. A linchpin will nominate themselves to be on the committee because they know that if they are not there nobody will consider inclusion in the same way that they do. ‘Status’ is often seen as a dirty word. But failure to recognise your status will result in missed opportunities.
So, are you a linchpin of inclusion? Do you put yourself out there to make a noise about inclusion? Do you ship?

No doubt that we need more people to be linchpins of inclusion. Get out there and use your status.


About the author: Peter Downs

About the author: Peter Downs

Founding Director - The Inclusion Club

Peter is Founding Director of The Inclusion Club and Manager of Play by the Rules – a national initiative to promote safe, fair and inclusive sport. Peter has worked for over 25 years in the field of inclusive sport, disability sport and physical activity including 17 years managing the Australian Sports Commission’s Disability Sport Unit.  In 2013 Peter was fortunate enough to receive a Churchill Fellowship to study models of best practice in inclusive sport and physical activity.