Previously published on Forbes
No, autism is not a ‘gift’. For most, it is an endless fight against schools, workplaces, and bullies. But, under the right circumstances, given the right adjustments, it CAN be a superpower. – Greta Thunberg, Environmental Activist
Leadership is about seeing the good and the gold in your people—at times, mining for it, when it seems buried deep. A great leader brings out the best in people, often beyond what the person thought possible for themselves.
With this in mind, let’s explore what may be, but likely isn’t, a new term for you: neurodiversity.
Neurodiversity refers to the diverse and distinct ways people's brains can work. No two brains function exactly alike. Neurological differences that show up in the brain’s structure, chemistry and functioning are associated with differences in sensory perception, cognitive functioning and mental health.
Consider that neurodiversity can be a superpower. A superpower is an extraordinary gift and way of being that is a contribution to your team and world. Think Clark Kent and Wonder Woman. For example, neurodiverse team members may have greater attention to detail, analytical thinking, pattern recognition and memory. That’s a superpower.
Once you embrace the idea that you have neurodiverse team members, you’ll know that it’s time to look for the superpowers that come with it.
Here are some of the gems that neurodiverse individuals bring to your team.
• Creativity: Neurodiverse team members may have innovative ways of approaching thorny problems. Ask for their input and perspective.
• Competitive advantage: In a world of rising technological advancement and automation, neurodiverse individuals can help gain a competitive edge.
• Expanded customer connection: Neurodiverse people can also help better understand and serve diverse customers and stakeholders.
• Other superpowers include higher energy levels and an ability to hyper-focus on a given task.
• Increased productivity and performance: Neurodiverse team members often have greater analytical thinking, memory, attention to detail, and pattern recognition.
When you give people what they need to be productive and help them feel like they are a valued member of a team, every team member can thrive and reach new heights. Since there is no single approach to leadership that works for all team members, it’s best to have more tools, more understanding, more compassion — what has been called, “situational leadership.” We all benefit when diversity of every kind is respected, welcomed and fully engaged. When you keep neurodiversity in mind as a leader, it can help you have a more respectful and inclusive attitude with people who seem different from yourself or from the masses.