A few days ago, I was engaged in a Twitter chat called #LeadingWithGiants. The topic of mental illness came up and they asked for full disclosure in regards to personal illnesses. "I have ADHD, it's a mental disorder and affects my leadership for sure," one woman wrote. "I truly struggle with it."
Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, IKEA founder and chairman Ingvar Kamprad, Jet Blue founder David Neeleman, Cisco Systems CEO John T. Chambers, Jim Carrey and Howie Mandel all have ADHD. They have found ways to find complete order in their disorder.
Once out of the structured school system, ADHD is not a disorder, but rather a beneficial trait in the working world. One study conducted at the University of Memphis examined creative style and achievement in adults with ADHD. Researchers found that poor inhibition, fluctuating attention and other symptoms of ADHD can lead to random thoughts and ideas. When those random ideas are applied to creative problem solving, adults with ADHD can have greater lifetime creative achievement than non-ADHD adults. Perhaps this is why the creative CEOs we know and love today are so successful.
Like Superman, they can be in five places at the same time, while anticipating to hear or read about the sixth. The brain of someone with ADHD needs constant stimulation, so working at one task for too long is too monotonous. They go from project to project, finding tactics to complete them all.
When someone is diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, they have been told where their weaknesses lie and have no choice but to adapt to their environment to ensure their success as adults. They learn to hire people to help with their weaknesses and the monotonous tasks that define the working world.
These individuals understand the sense of urgency, and they have adapted and manipulated the world around them to accomplish the tasks that challenge them.
Find listed the strategies used by top business leaders with ADHD:
Problem Solving Ability: Their minds work on top of the box, so they can see all the different angles being thrown at them. Since their thoughts are not linear, they are able to come up with solutions that others would not see.
Hyper-focused: Richard Branson said it best in a CNBC interview: "I have always lived my life by making lists: lists of people to call; lists of ideas; lists of companies to set up and lists of people who can make things happen. Each day I work through these lists, and that sequence of calls propels me forward."
Creativity: Their world is a box of crayons. There is no such thing as black and white with someone who has ADHD. Anything is possible and will be possible. They will find a way to make it happen because their brain cannot focus on one thing for too long. When they go back to a task at hand, they come up with a new perspective and ideas in the oddest of places.
Intuitive: Someone with ADHD not only lives in the now, but lives in the later since they cannot focus on any one single task. Their brains are programmed to constantly see what else is going on around them. They can sense when something is going to happen and foresee what will happen next -- the good, the bad and the ugly.
Idea Generating: The best example of an ADHD-inspired invention is David Neeleman's e-ticket. He kept misplacing his airline tickets every time he flew, so he created a system that wouldn't require a paper ticket. This helped him stay organized and generate a world-changing idea.
Risk-Taking: People with ADHD have no time to think and ponder an idea, because if they do, they will forget about it and never make it happen. The person with ADHD is a risk taker, as it really is now or never!
High Energy: This was and is the biggest problem in the school-system, because people with ADHD have high energy. But in the work place, that high energy makes you more productive.
Sense of Humour: People with ADHD have had to learn to laugh at themselves, as they can't take themselves too seriously. At the end of the day, they will laugh last.
I'm not denying that there are negative side effects to someone with ADHD, but if you take a disorder and find order, there are so many benefits to be found. ADHD is not a curse, but rather can be a business leader's secret power.
Jessica Glazer is the Recruitment Director/Founder of www.MindHR.com-a head-hunting and resume writing agency. She can also be heard on Montreal's NewsTalk Radio CJAD and seen on BTMontreal and Global television speaking about employment related issues.
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"Adults with ADHD tend to be very successful if they find the right fit," says Jane Massengill, a certified adult ADHD coach for more than 30 years. "Most of my adult ADHD clients are self-employed or independent contractors." Owning your own business takes some investment and gumption, but the reward for adults with ADHD at work is independence. "The most important thing is that they have a job they are passionate about,” explains Massengill. “Otherwise, they tend to get bored and lose their focus.”
Being a high-level, independent salesperson usually requires a college education and good people skills — both attainable for those with adult ADHD. David G. Hanley, of West Hartford, Conn., has been a successful salesman for more than 30 years. Although he sometimes struggles with ADHD symptoms, such as difficulty with organization and multitasking, the ability to be independent and make his own schedule has been a big plus. "Working independently has allowed me to develop self-confidence,” says Hanley. “I have been able to create a system that allows me to work at my own pace rather than at a dictated pace.”
Getting into the medical field as a doctor or a nurse requires years of study, but many people with adult ADHD find the field interesting and challenging enough to hold their attention. Work challenges may include long hours and a lot of paperwork. On the upside: "High energy, tons of variety, good patient and staff rapport, and partners to help with running the business can all be pluses for adults with ADHD in the medical field," says Massengill.
To get into this field you will need talent, some luck, and perseverance, according to Massengill, whose clients include the singer and songwriter Joan Baez. For people with adult ADHD, the entertainment field offers high creativity and the ability to make your own schedule, which helps when managing ADHD symptoms. “Challenges include being able to leave on time for trips, staying organized, and making time in the schedule for fun and exercise," says Massengi
Entering a military career requires a high school diploma and passing a background check. If you want to be an officer, you will have to work your way up or hold a higher degree in education. "The high energy, tight structure, and physical exertion of a military career can all be pluses for adult ADHD," says Massengill. On the negative side, some people with adult ADHD may rebel against the strict discipline and control inherent in military life.
These jobs require special training, and there may be quite a bit of competition to find an opening. However, if you can get into the police force or fire department, it could be a good fit for adults with ADHD. Many police and firefighters love their job. They get action and variety and have to rely heavily on their own skills and judgments. On the minus side, there may be periods of boredom, paperwork, and the need to deal with authority figures, which can make the job challenging for those with adult ADHD.
Adults with ADHD do well in careers that offer creativity, independence, and variety. Careers that may be tough for adults with ADHD are jobs that require rigid schedules and tight deadlines, as well as ones that are very detail-oriented. “Sometimes I need to breathe deeply and count to 100 to relieve boredom and reduce stress,” says Hanley. “I have learned not to over-react to situations and people and to be more patient. Taking a time-out to enjoy working in the yard, reading history, or just to do a little daydreaming helps keep me sane.”
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