How Dyslexia Has Helped Me as a Business Leader

This article was first posted on our CEO, Andrew Mc Kenna's LinkedIn Profile.  

Did someone say disability? Yes, dyslexia is a learning difficulty, but it’s completely manageable. I know this for a fact because I have dyslexia too.

It’s been up and down, but thankfully I have supportive parents who ensured I received a good education and got extra support in school. They helped me to come up with methods to deal with dyslexia positively and see it as an advantage.

I feel grateful to have received such support. A 2012 study shows not everyone is so lucky. It states 27% of high-school dropouts in the US have a learning disability and 85% of juvenile offenders in the UK have reading disabilities. Without the required support, unfortunately, a lot of young people can go down the wrong path. 

If you’re not sure what dyslexia is, here is a good explanatory video! 

How I adapted to dyslexia 

When I was in school, I made the decision to embrace dyslexia. That’s when I started to tap into the right side of my brain and come up with problem-solving visual methods. I remember when I was a kid, part of my phone number was 2344. It’s only four numbers, but to remember them in the right order, I had to visualise a ladder, stool and two chairs. Go figure! (Here’s a hint: legs)

While words weren’t my strong point, creativity was. I was placed in Higher English at school just because of my creative writing abilities. Unsurprisingly, there are many studies now which highlight the link between dyslexia and creativity.

One such study published the following findings after conducting a test, The alleged link between creativity and dyslexia.

“It was found out that students with dyslexia had a significantly higher propensity for unusual combination of ideas, which is an aspect of creative thinking. These findings are a contribution to the understanding of the peculiar cognitive functioning of people with learning disabilities. The results also suggest that dyslexia involves not only impairments, but it is also associated with cognitive peculiarities that can be useful and productive in the workplace.”

I adapted to dyslexia by using unique methods that helped me spell certain words, do a maths sum or pronounce a word correctly.

Creativity, problem-solving and thinking outside the box are all benefits of dyslexia. Sometimes, this is the type of mindset a business or business leader is lacking in to reach success. As the CEO of a recruitment agency, I can see first-hand that we need more of these skills and thought processes in our future employees!

How dyslexia benefits me as a business leader

Dyslexia has 100% helped me become a better business leader. I’m able to visualise what I want my businesses to look like in the future and the strategy needed to get them there. I wouldn’t be able to do this if I wasn’t born with a learning difficulty.

Most importantly, it’s given me a deeper understanding of people, which is an important trait of a successful CEO. Being able to listen, understand and provide support to your staff is vital to their happiness. Like Richard Branson once said, if your staff aren’t happy, neither are your customers. And without customers, you have no business!

Richard is the founder of the Virgin Group, is a multi-billionaire and one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. Oh, and guess what, he has dyslexia – an estimated 40% of global CEO’s have it.

Inclusion in the workplace

Acceptance and inclusion in the workplace are two values I try to uphold throughout my businesses. I believe everyone should have equal employment opportunities no matter what their brain map looks like.

As business leaders, we have many fears. We are fearful when setting up a new business, fear not getting any customers and fear losing money. Some are even afraid of saying, “I’m dyslexic”. This needs to change.

Let’s stop waiting for other leaders to change what the workplace looks like. Open your mind and recruiting process to include everyone of all abilities. You never know, it might just be the best hire you ever made!

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