It’s refreshing to know that there are dyslexic people out there in prominent positions who can influence change because of who they are. We already know that dyslexia affects on average 10% of the population, but what is less obvious is how this cut across the general population.
In 2007, Professor Julie Logan of the Cass Business School wrote a report that identified that about 35% of entrepreneurs in the United States showed signs of dyslexia, compared to 20% in the UK.
According to Gary Grant, owner of the UK’s biggest independent chain of toy shops, to be successful ‘modern leaders need to have a level of necessary attributes. One of them doesn’t have to be qualifications but diversity’. These beliefs are borne out of the fact that Gary is dyslexic himself.
Professor Nigel Lockett is an academic with more than just a passing interest in dyslexia and entrepreneurship as the Professor of Entrepreneurship at Lancaster University. He says that the main characteristics in being a dyslexic entrepreneur are having ‘resilience, borne out of adversity, and empathy, borne out of suffering’. But to ‘combine resilience and empathy with big picture thinking’ then you have the power to ‘envision’ that makes an entrepreneurial winning formula.
Prof Lockett says that dyslexics in general have a heightened level of empathy. Managing an individual with dyslexia can be complex – get it right and the rewards can be high. Fully embracing that an individual has dyslexia can give them self-assurance and make them an effective team player. That is why it is imperative that line managers need to be open-minded and support employees to allow them to develop their full potential. This can be a bonus for the employer and the employee at the same time.
According to Prof Lockett, apart from a heightened level of empathy, people with dyslexia also have a ‘heightened ability for visual or big picture thinking’.
Part of knowing what makes an entrepreneur with dyslexia so successful is that Prof Lockett is also dyslexic.
During his schooling in the 1970s he had ‘engendered such a profound feeling of rejection and isolation’ and was always looking to himself for solutions. This gave him the ability to work independently and to develop resilience.
His decision to publicly disclose, on social media, that he had dyslexia was driven by his own sense of security and his desire to move forward. He had already reconciled himself to the fact that he didn’t want promotion and didn’t anticipate being ‘fired’ from his job. To his surprise no one reacted negatively. In fact, such was the interest that the Times Higher Education contacted him to be in a special supplement on disability. His opinion is that dyslexia is not a disability but a learning difference and ‘increasingly more like a superpower’ – just think how well organisations would do if they recognised this potential and nurtured these talents.