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  • Writer's pictureApril Forum

The case for leadership neurodiversity

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

Learnings from our latest Forum on why and how leaders should encourage diversity of thinking around the boardroom table and across their organisation

Learning to recognise and manage diversity

Neurodiversity is complex, multidimensional and often misunderstood. There is a big challenge to help managers recognise, appreciate and learn how to best engage with diverse thinking approaches.

Perhaps this extends beyond neurodiversity to the bigger topic of recognising and valuing differences in people. We are taught to read, write, and add up as part of a regular education but we are not taught how to recognise, value, and collaborate with different types of people and ways of thinking. In this context, neurodiversity becomes another dimension of the broader diversity and inclusion agenda.

From ‘accommodating’ to ‘celebrating’

Neurodiversity can be a seen as a problem to be accommodated or a box to be ticked. Yet sometimes it can be an individual’s superpower, making them best equipped to tackle a particular challenge.

From the point of view of leadership teams struggling with complex challenges, a truly diverse group will likely be better at creative thinking, strategising or problem solving. Should we view neurodiversity as a positive business opportunity and build a business case around it? GCHQ looks to recruit people with Asperger’s because the way they think is a positive advantage for some jobs.

Nurturing the conditions for neurodiversity to thrive

Imagine a workplace where you had a choice between a noisy team area, a quiet individual work pod or a games room to let off steam. Imagine if every meeting had clear objectives, linked to a shared, motivating purpose and was preceded by an agenda and pre-read materials, with the opportunity for real-time or later reflective contribution from participants. Imagine a meeting chair who made a special effort to listen to and appreciate the inputs from the naturally quieter people around the table. Imagine a policy where you were only required to be in the office by exception, when remote simply wouldn’t work.

This might be the workplace of the future where neurodiversity can thrive, where different ways of thinking and different ways of working are all recognised, valued, available and possible.

Rather than the dogmatic drive after the pandemic to get everyone back into the office and the open-plan hell of hot-desking, leadership has a great opportunity to design a neurodiverse-friendly environment that will be a major factor in choosing your employer.

Recasting job descriptions

Many job roles are complex and multi-dimensional, expecting people to be creative and free-thinking one minute, then disciplined and analytical the next. What if we could deconstruct then reconstruct jobs so that they better match people’s neuro profiles? The same work would get done but those doing it would be operating more according to their skills and thinking preferences, hopefully leading to higher productivity and work satisfaction. How much neurodiversity do you need, and when?

Depending on where you are in the lifecycle of a business (start-up, scaling, competing, pivoting) you need a different blend of thinking types. At the early stages, flexibility and adaptability in real time are critical whereas higher up the curve, reflection and deliberation become more important. That might point towards a model ‘neuro-team blueprint’ for each stage of evolution of a business.

Visit our forum web page for more information about our Forum discussions.

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