If I was to ask you what these three men (Sir Richard Branson, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, and JetBlue founder David Neeleman) have in common, what would you say? Most likely you’d say they were successful businessmen…and you’d be right. Another commonality is that they all have been diagnosed with ADHD.
I was working with sixteen business owners. During a group meeting, the topic of ADHD came up because one of their children/grandchildren had been diagnosed with ADHD. I asked how many of the business owners had ADHD. Half of the hands in the room went up. I also worked with other executives I strongly suspected to have ADHD. Finally, I decided I need to learn more about ADHD and the effects on leadership to better serve my clients. I have read a number of books and completed two classes hosted by the ADD Coach Academy.
Here’s a bit of what I have found about the ADHD Leader.
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. It comes in three varieties: predominately inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and a combined type. In 2013, these subtypes were removed. A better description would be Executive Function Deficit Disorder, because “researchers have found that the brain is inefficient when trying to plan, organize, initiate, remember and self-regulate…abilities called ‘executive function.’”
It is estimated that nearly 17 million Americans are affected by ADHD. In children, it is generally diagnosed between 5 and 8 years old depending on the severity. However, many make it to adulthood without being diagnosed. Males are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females. ADHD is genetically passed from parents to children. There is a 76 percent chance that if a parent has ADHD at least one of their children will be diagnosed with ADHD.
An ADHD leader has what can be described as a different wiring of the brain. Like all of us, they have strengths and challenges.
Here are some of the key strengths:
- High energy
In my experience with business owners and entrepreneurs, they have the uncanny ability to hyper-focus on the problem until they find a solution. Sometimes they can work for hours straight because they enjoy trying to solve the problem.
Here are some challenges:
- Inability to concentrate
- Easily distracted
These challenges come into play with an ADHD leader when they have to do mundane tasks that they do not find stimulating. They get bored easily, which is why the typical approach to education may not be the best fit. This also contributes to ADHD leaders being good at initiating activity, but poor at follow-through during execution.
I recall working with one business owner who had difficulty focusing on details associated with his business. This frustrated his assistants. On several occasions, he brought his assistants into our coaching sessions. I was able to facilitate helping his assistants to understand the owner’s challenges and developing systems and structures to help the owner to improve his organization skills. In the end, he was more productive, and they were happier.
In another instance, the family of a diagnosed ADHD individual did not understand ADHD. They were very frustrated at how the impacts of the ADHD disrupted the work environment. In coaching, this intelligent individual decided he wanted to make a presentation to his family so they could better understand ADHD. The impact of the presentation was powerful. Here are two videos that were shared during the presentation.
Failing at Normal: An ADHD Success Story:
Not Just Living, But Thriving with ADHD:
In closing, keep in mind that there are numerous strategies that can be put in place to help the ADHD leader as suggested in these two stories. It starts with understanding more about ADHD and leveraging the strengths while mitigating the challenges. It is possible!
Let us know if this is a topic of interest to you. We can do another newsletter on the topic of ADHD leaders.
For the Faith-Based Reader:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6-9 ESV
- Dale Archer, ADHD: The Entrepreneur’s Superpower, May 14, 2014 Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/dalearcher/2014/05/14/adhd-the-entrepreneurs-superpower/#781786e959e9
- ADD Coach Academy, ADHD Challenges, Strengths, Strategies, and Neuroscience, c. 2012-2014, 2.
- What is ADHD? https://www.vyvanse.com/adhd-definition?mid=V013047&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=bing&utm_campaign=2018_ub_dtc_vyvadult_adhd_adult-condition&utm_term=adhd%20and&utm_content=core_phrase&gclid=CK-Jr5i6gOECFZCWxQIdTXMHng&gclsrc=ds
- Kimberly Holland and Elsbeth Riley, ADHD by the Numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You, Healthline Newsletter, 18 May 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/facts-statistics-infographic
- ADD Coach Academy, p. 17
- [Dale Archer, ADHD: The Entrepreneur’s Superpower, May 14, 2014 Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/dalearcher/2014/05/14/adhd-the-entrepreneurs-superpower/#781786e959e9
- ADD Coach Academy, p. 25