Global leader with ADD or Dyslexia? Five reasons why this could be good for business

diffability 2How much do you know about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and related conditions Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Dyslexia? How might knowledge of these help you run a global team?

I don’t pretend to be an expert but my personal and family experiences of these conditions, especially ADD, have led me to look more deeply into the gifts that they present and to spread the word about how people with these ‘diffabilites’ (I prefer this word to disabilities) can add value to a business.

You could argue we are all on a spectrum to some extent and certainly some of us are much more likely to be disorganized or procrastinate if we are trying hard to consistently complete tasks which don’t match our preferred thinking style.

For those of us who have  ADHD (whether officially diagnosed or not) there is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness to manage. Take David Neeleman, recipient of the 2005 Tony Jannus Award for outstanding leadership in the commercial aviation industry and Founder of JetBlue Airways, one of only a few U.S. airlines that made a profit during the sharp downturn in airline travel following the September 11, 2001 attacks. He is clear that despite ADD’s less welcome traits like disorganization, procrastination and an inability to focus, his creativity and ability to take risks are what have been pivotal to his career success.  He says that he can distill complicated facts and find simple solutions, and that his “ADD brain naturally searches for better ways of doing things.

Dyslexia is another condition which can fuel extraordinary results. Diane Swonk, author of The Passionate Economist: Finding the Power and Humanity Behind the Numbers and, until recently, the chief economist at Bank One in Chicago, has dyslexia. She is prone to getting her numbers in the wrong order, or flipping as it is known but her ability to process information multidimensionally rather than in linear form and see the big picture before anyone else has been advantageous in a world where money is made or lost in seconds. As a child she often felt isolated and scared but she says this has enabled her to keep an open mind: “My dyslexia probably made me insecure when I was younger, but now it serves as an underlying reminder of my own humility.

These are just two of many examples to be found of people with different neurologies and thinking patterns leading fulfilling lives and giving organizations a competitive edge. So what qualities and characteristics could you be looking out for, either in yourself or your colleagues? What clues might there be that you have someone with ‘diffabilities’ and talent worth developing? Here are 5 possibilities:

  1. An ability to solve problems and puzzles. Give them an interesting problem to solve and they won’t be able to drop it until they have found the solution! Its linked to creativity and a tendency to see the world from a different perspective.
  2. An ability to hyper-focus (for those with ADHD) which, if kept under control and directed towards productive tasks, like accomplishing goals and living dreams, can be an incredible asset that allows them to get the job done, and done well!
  3. Resilience: Although there are many great qualities that come along with ‘diffability’, there are also challenges. But years of experience of overcoming difficulties often result in an incredible ability to bounce back from challenges and to keep moving forward.
  4. A sharp intuition, perhaps due to highly tuned levels of perception or something else that we have yet to understand. If you are global team leader managing the fast pace of change in today’s business environment, it is a useful talent to have.
  5. Idea Generation. Although not always concerned with details they can come up with ideas at lightning speed – a true asset in brainstorming meetings.

Of course having a ‘diffability’ can also be a cause of stress, embarrassment and lack of productivity, and I will talk more about this and how I work with such clients in a future blog. But for now, remember the opportunities that such leaders offer your business.

For more information on the work I do with global executives click here.

© Move Ahead Global 2014

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