Skip to main content
Home » Inclusivity in the Workplace » Why neurodiverse employees make great leaders
Inclusivity & Wellbeing in the Workplace Q1 2024

Why neurodiverse employees make great leaders

Neurodiversity illustration. People with different mindsets or psychological features.
Neurodiversity illustration. People with different mindsets or psychological features.
iStock / Getty Images Plus / MarLei

Sandi Wassmer

CEO, Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (ENEI)

Over the past few years, the working world has become alive to the incredible talents that neurodiverse people offer.

There still seems to be the misapprehension that neurodiverse people are only capable of technical jobs, such as finance or software development, rather than leadership or people management.

However, as a CEO with ADHD, I’m here to tell you that neurodiverse people do make open and authentic leaders and honest and considerate managers. The talents, skills, experiences and expertise that neurodiverse people bring to leadership are broad and deep. It’s time for organisations to start harnessing this untapped leadership pool.

Skills mastery for neurodiverse employees

As individual contributors, neurodiverse employees are able to master a skill or talent quickly. Leaders should be able to understand the disciplines of those in their team that may be different to your own, which provides a unique opportunity to support them in their roles better.

Problem-solving ability

Neurodiverse people have extraordinary pattern recognition abilities and see connections between things that others often don’t, making them fantastic problem-solvers.

Outside-the-box thinking

Neurodiverse people have the ability to think critically and abstractly. They can challenge norms and add enormous value to strategy development with their ways of thinking.

Resilience of neurodiverse people

As most neurodiverse people have had to navigate the neurotypical world and find alternative ways to get where they need to go, they have developed the superpower of resilience along the way.

How can organisations support neurodiverse
people and encourage them into leadership roles?

Absolute honesty

Neurodiverse people often exhibit complete and unfiltered honesty. In leadership, this cuts through the noise and politics and coalesces others around getting things done in a no-nonsense and impactful way. So, how can organisations support neurodiverse people and encourage them into leadership roles?

Reach out for help

Most organisations will not have the expertise in-house to do this, so it’s vital to partner with diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) or neurodiversity organisations.

Removing barriers

It’s critical for organisations to make sure there are no barriers for neurodiverse people at any point in the employee life cycle — from recruitment and onboarding to retention and progression. More importantly, they must ensure that learning, development and progression opportunities are fair, equitable and appropriately accessible.

Create specific pathways into leadership

To make it sustainable, employers should collaborate with neurodiverse employees to develop leadership pathways and programmes that meet their specific needs.

A competitive edge

Diverse thinking, approaches and ways of working lead to greater creativity, innovation and business growth opportunities. As such, organisations that support neurodiverse people in leadership roles will have a competitive edge.

Next article