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Are you a leader with ADHD? I’ll be quick.

By September 11, 2020No Comments

Did you know that people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are more likely to be demigods than those of us without? It’s true – you can read all about it in one of the best series of books ever written for young people: Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

Know what else is true? The business environment is one that often attracts and rewards those people who, as kids, spent more time in the principal’s office than in the classroom. The very qualities that earned the exasperated ire of teachers – the high energy levels, the tendency to hyper-focus, the zanily divergent thought processes — are the same qualities that can contribute to great entrepreneurial success.

Being a business owner or leader with ADHD still has its challenges, though. Among those challenges?

  • Keeping stuff organized.
  • Figuring out how much time to allot to tasks.
  • Alternating attention.
  • Being patient with co-workers who are more linear (okay: plodding, even) in their approach to things.
  • Staying the course.
  • Noticing the subtle interpersonal cues that come your way, and discerning which ones to act on.
  • Putting up with repeated digs involving the word “Squirrel!”

Neuropsychologists call these skills ‘Executive Functions’. These abilities don’t reside in the KNOWING HOW TO sections of the brain — the parts responsible for knowing how to walk, or talk, or do math, for example. Instead, these skills lie more within the realm of the KNOWING WHEN TO, and are largely housed in the prefrontal lobes of the cerebrum.

In terms of its origin and its impact, therefore, ADHD is a poorly named disorder. It’s not so much a problem of attention as it is a problem of executive functions. (Readers with ADHD, this is where you can demonstrate your superior faculties for divergent thinking: Figure out a better acronym. Try to work in the letters for such things as Time Management, Organizational Skills, and Demigod Powers. Then come back and finish up this article.)

To maximize your effectiveness as a leader with ADHD, you’d be well-advised to commit to a few things.

  1. HIRING second- and third- and fourth-in-command types who are exceptional with respect to those executive functions you lack,
  2. DELEGATING to them whenever possible,
  3. ACTING ON the feedback of colleagues and family members when they tell you what they need you to start or stop doing, and
  4. SUBMITTING (yes, submitting) to a certain amount of disciplined routine, as chafing as that might feel.

I know that these habits are not exciting in the least, not sexy at all – unless, that is, you are enthralled by the notion of having your brilliant ideas actually come to fruition in the marketplace. Or unless you long to have people think of you with less exasperation and more admiration or appreciation. If so, then you should be embracing those habits with all the fervour of a tomcat on date night.

If you need more ideas for succeeding as a leader with ADHD, or help in persisting with new habits, consider hiring an executive coach with expertise in this area. Together, you will co-create an action plan that includes putting in place all the guardrails you need to stay in your lane. Then all that remains will be for you to … Release the Kraken!

Amazing things can happen when you clean off your desk.