dyslexia-leadership-superheroWhat are the secrets of success for dyslexic business and non-profit leaders?

“I built up a great team of people around me. One of the major strengths if I look back was my ability to pick great people, to work with them and to create a wonderful environment where everyone wanted to succeed together.”

From this research from Professor Julie Logan at the Cass Business School, research was conducted “to find an explanation for the high proportion of dyslexics among successful entrepreneurs and what skills or attributes have given these dyslexic entrepreneurs a head start.”

What are recurring themes and conclusions?

Great People Skills and EQ

  • Dyslexic leaders are people-centric. “I love to work in teams.”
  • Dyslexic leaders can build great teams and work environments. “One of the major strengths if I look back was my ability to pick great people, to work with them and to create a wonderful environment where everyone wanted to succeed together.”
  • Dyslexic leaders can have strong empathy and listening: “I’ve always engendered great loyalty in my employees because I listen to them.  I understand what they want to get out of life. “

Ability to Communicate a Vision

  • Dyslexic leaders can communicate a vision by “painting pictures with words that people can follow so that they want to do whatever it is that needs to be done.”
  • “My best form of communication is verbally. I learned to colour pictures very vividly … the pictures I was feeling.”
  • “Winning the confidence of people is important. And I can best do that by talking to them and, as I say, showing by example rather than producing something in the written form.

Strong Metacognition and Ability to Build a Diverse Successful Team

Research studies of college students with  dyslexia have shown that dyslexic students in general seem to have better metacognition (awareness of one’s own thinking processes) and use of strategies than non-dyslexic peers. The pattern could be due to selection bias –  the most metacognitively-aware students are fund in college – but either way, it is interesting to see that added advantages in metacognitive awareness are also seen among dyslexic adults in successful business.  What Professor Logan interpreted as delegation in her paper  is to us likely more than an ability delegate jobs…  it’s an awareness of cognitive diversity (self as well as others – awareness that different minds excel at different tasks) so that they are more likely to avoid the startup pitfall of failing to delegate or hire great team members that can allow a promising business to scale.  It is no accident, we believe, that we know so many high-level corporate recruiters who are dyslexic.

From the research:

  • I back people for their talent. It’s much more interesting to me what somebody brings to the table than their skills and abilities, what they’ve done, what pieces of paper they’ve got. So I’m quite good at seeing potential and I’m also very good at helping people play to their strengths … and ensuring that they do.
  • “In the last few years I’ve twice employed people and paid them more salary than myself because they are the people I wanted in my company to do the job I wanted them to do. And they can do the job a thousand times better than I’ll ever do it.”

Innovative Thinking

From our book, Dyslexic Advantage, we talked about the various threads of research that suggest that dyslexics as a group have higher levels of divergent and creativity thinking than non-dyslexic  people. Not surprisingly, many successful entrepreneurs recognize that their ability to think different is an asset in business.

  • For me, being dyslexic means that it’s a reason why I see things differently.”
  • “I saw the opportunities that were, for me, wide open simply because other people all thought the same way. It’s a very narrow road that they travel.”

  •  “I just tend to think I see things differently to other people…I don’t see boundaries, I don’t see barriers to doing things. I see ways to do things.”

To watch more about the successful traits of dyslexic men and women in the high tech workforce, watch the video below!