Some of their talents include:

  • being exceptionally good at focusing
  • flawless attention to detail
  • boundless creativity
  • original ideas.

Keeping that in mind, there are certain challenges they will need your support to overcome, such as misunderstanding social rules, sensory difficulties, and appearing chaotic and indecisive.

People on the neurodiversity spectrum can become superb assets to your organisation. 

Some of their talents include:

  • being exceptionally good at focusing
  • flawless attention to detail
  • boundless creativity
  • original ideas.

Keeping that in mind, there are certain challenges they will need your support to overcome, such as misunderstanding social rules, sensory difficulties, and appearing chaotic and indecisive.

Biased approach to neurodiversity

Neurodiversity can boost a company’s ability to innovate and problem-solve, yet many employees with neurodevelopmental differences have had less than ideal experiences getting hired, being supported at work and growing in their careers.

The term neurodiversity refers to the neurological differences that result from normal variations in the human genome. Some forms of neurodivergence include autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Asperger’s syndrome and Tourette syndrome. There is a wide spectrum, so the associated characteristics displayed vary from person to person.

Recognising that neurodivergence is the result of genetics challenges the previously prevailing view that neurological diversity is pathological (ie the manifestation of some kind of disease). This recognition encourages us to respect and value neurological differences, as we do differences in gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. It creates an opportunity for organisations to discover the benefits of embracing a neurodiverse culture. Doing so will help them tackle the current global talent shortages and obtain a competitive edge.

The neuroscience of leadership

Studying the neuroscience of leadership has changed my world. Firstly, it helped me with raising my dyslexic son who had struggled to fit into the school education system. Then it helped me change the world for my clients and friends in my community. It enabled me to understand how different brains work, knowing no two brains are the same even when there are commonalities and similar experiences. Today I coach clients with all types of different learning requirements. My life experiences and studies have led me to share some of my knowledge, passion and insights with others.

Look to the opportunities

Life is an obstacle course, but one with many rich learnings, possibilities and opportunities to grow, including reviewing our biases and how we perceive others who think, act and communicate differently. Some of the most talented people I have met and worked with have a neurodiverse superpower and I would not change them for the world.

An Australian leader I admire is Booktopia founder Tony Nash who shared valuable insights into the benefits of his superpower and how he harnessed ADHD to create a successful business that has won many business awards. 

Another inspiring story is that of Elaine Halligan, a TEDx speaker on Neurodiversity is a superpower, not a problem. Elaine explained her journey raising her neurodiverse son and the obstacles she faced. She says all behaviour is a form of communication.

All behaviour has a cause. Communicating differently by acknowledging the small steps of improvement, progress, attitude improvement and effort as opposed to the end result improved her son’s confidence and self-esteem. When your self-esteem is strong only then can you start working with your strengths and accept those weaknesses without lowering your self-worth.

Tips to embrace a neurodiverse culture

Lead from the top

Leaders from the top tier of your organisation down to the frontline of your organisation will require education if you are to create a culture accepting of neurodiversity. They need to know how to effectively lead and embrace people who think differently. They need to have a clear view of the desired outcome, and understand the benefits they will gain.

Dealing with biases that may be holding leaders back can require an adjustment to how teams have collaborated and handled behavioural differences in the past. Leveraging the knowledge and experience of experts like consultants, not-for-profits and associations can provide valuable insights. Identify the cultural pillars and values that underpin a new way of thinking on how you assess performance, productivity, engagement to gain the desired outcomes.

Creating a diverse culture will require new approaches to engagement, assessing performance and measuring productivity. The foundation of these will be the organisation’s cultural pillars and values. So these must be clearly identified and understood.

Focus on strengths

Explore the full range of people’s abilities – those of current team members and potential new hires. Do not let someone’s neurodivergence blind you to the unique things they may have to offer. Rather than searching for skills gaps, appreciative enquiry lets you consider what people do well. You can then find ways to apply these strengths to other parts of their job and ultimately to your organisation.

Once you have the right mix on your team, focus on these strengths. Neurodivergent team members may find parts of their role trickier or easier than their colleagues. To allow everyone to perform to their strengths, be flexible with roles and focus areas. Continue to invest in learning and development of their strengths to the next level in alignment with the future direction of the organisation, and leverage technology advantages.


Understand each of your people’s preferences for receiving communication and the best way to prioritise what is most important. Communication considerations include the right mix of visual, auditory and written communication. It is important to avoid language that makes people feel threatened and to use language they perceive as rewarding. It is also important to be aware of the triggers that cause distress. Communicating where people’s strengths fit within the organisation makes a difference because most people want to contribute and feel a part of the company culture.

Check in regularly

Make sure you check in regularly with your employees. This has become more important than ever with remote or hybrid working. Starting and continuing conversations with people about how they are coping will help them to overcome challenges and feel supported.

Remember to check with individuals on the ways and the frequency with which they prefer to be contacted, i.e. by phone, web chat or video call. One-to-one sessions with employees are used to support them. Avoid spontaneous calls and meetings because these can catch people unprepared and raise their anxiety levels. Perhaps text or email first to see if it is convenient to talk, and state the topic you want to cover to avoid making them feel threatened.

Know where and when your team members do their best

For decades, work was mostly undertaken in an office and between 9am and 5pm. Then COVID-19 forced us to work remotely and many people discovered they could be more productive outside traditional work hours. Others noticed they were most efficient working in small increments of time. There is an optimal way to work, however this is different for each person. 

  • Know when and where your people do their best work i.e. morning, afternoon, evening or a combination. Identify strategies together to protect deep thinking time from internal and external distractions.
  • Recognise the importance of brain breaks between tasks to re-energise the brain and increase oxygen levels and help reset the brain’s ability to perform at its best throughout the day and week.
  • Know when and where to have team meetings and know in advance what information each team member requires so they are prepared and able to contribute.
  • Build in time each day to deal with known and unknown obstacles around key priorities. Often, we fill our days full of tasks and then when obstacles arise, we feel we do not have the capacity to deal with them. Then, our emotions can get the better of us and we feel frustrated, overwhelmed and fatigued.


Neurodiversity is an opportunity to make organisations and ourselves as leaders more successful. By empowering people who think differently through understanding, we enable them to better contribute to the organisation they work for and to society as a whole.

Self-confidence has an impact on how we interact and connect with people around us (both at work and personally). From experience, being a successful leader requires more than wielding authority; it requires finding ways to get people working together — leveraging their collective intelligence to serve the goals of the organisation.

About Vannessa McCamley

Vannessa McCamley is a leadership and performance expert specialising in neuroscience practices that help individuals, teams and businesses grow in meaningful ways whilst delivering measurable results in healthy ways. She has a passion for helping people and businesses to overcome obstacles and enabling them to reach their strategic goals. She brings a strong background in IT security and more than 20 years of business experience to collaborating with individuals at all levels and from several industries.

She is the author of Rewire for Success, an easy guide to using neuroscience to improve choices for work, life and wellbeing. 

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