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EP #36 Neurodiversity in Leadership: Building a Neuro-inclusive World and Workforce, with Will Wheeler.

adhd entrepreneurship leadership podcast classroom 5.0 Apr 24, 2024


Ever wanted to witness two neurodivergent brains in action, raw and uncut? Well, here's your chance!


Today's episode of our podcast deviates from the usual format—you won't find any polished edits or post-production touches here. It's just Will Wheeler and me, coming together in all our combined ADHD glory.  


In our conversation today, Will and I dive into the necessity for neurodivergent individuals like ourselves to engage in dialogue that isn't polished to fit neurotypical norms. We explore how the unfiltered, wandering conversations characteristic of our ADHD can both spark creative collaboration, and pose challenges in maintaining our train of thought, a challenge you'll hear us both support one another around as we speak! 

We're not alone. Different focus and attention styles are a core feature of ADHD, as anyone with lived experience personally or through relationships knows. While to the neurotypical, linear minded friend or colleague this may seem frustrating (as it is for us too!) persevere with us, and you’ll benefit from the brilliance of our divergent thinking and innovative solutions to whatever problem we’re mulling over at the time.

Like myself, Will is a fierce advocate and activist in the neurodiversity space, and is as equally passionate about supporting people around their struggles as he is in activating their strengths. As previous episodes have touched on, neurodivergent individuals often bring unique perspectives that can lead to increased creativity, problem-solving abilities, and innovation. However, without the proper support and recognition, these talents can remain under-utilized, affecting both the individuals and the communities and organisations they could potentially enrich. Will shares how his company, Neurodiversity Academy, is working to raise the bar for inclusive education, to ensure all students thrive. 

We also take a dive into leadership, and explore the unique challenges and opportunities neurodivergent leaders and their allies face. While I'm excited to live in a time where more and more awareness and research is being dedicated to helping our neurodivergent community thrive, I tend to agree with Will - the empirical research around what works well in schools and organisations, especially as it relates to leadership development, is yet to catch up with the demand. We’re seeing a welcomed, exponential increase in interest and uptake from people wanting to support and leverage their own and one another's  unique abilities.


“Don't get me wrong. I think people are approaching it the right way. Still, there is that lack of understanding. And rather than, you know, me go in there and be like, Oh, what are you, you know, you don't know anything, you know, you do have to work with these people because, you know, they're wanting to learn, you know, they they're wanting to learn.

....just trying to help people understand that better is really key. So, you know, yes, there is, we're still learning. To tell you the truth, from when I first got into neurodiversity over 10 years ago, whatever it was, man, it was like, you walk into a room and there's crickets. Now I'm going to, like, I go to like, I get invited to go and go to workshops where industries are putting on huge trainings.

So for example, I went to a workshop the other day for the water industry here in Sydney. And it was just a breath of fresh air because they were getting all like heads from the water industry into a room where we can start brainstorming about how they can start doing more for neurodiversity in that sector.

And then also, you know, what could be the pathways to get people jobs into there. And it was really interesting. It was great to be seeing, and it was the first time I've ever seen an industry actually take that path of really trying to brainstorm on 

Listening to Will speak, I was reminded of the power of visibility and advocacy in creating change. By sharing his story and the work of his organisation, Neurodiveristy Academy, Will not only raises awareness of our community’s needs and potential, but also provides tangible solutions that encourage systemic change that will help build a neuro-inclusive world and workforce. 

Reflecting on our conversation, I’m again reminded that the journey toward a truly inclusive future of learning, work and leadership that not only accommodates for, but celebrates and leverages neurodiversity is ongoing. The challenges are significant, but the opportunities for growth, for innovation, and for creating a genuinely inclusive society are immense.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why neurodiversity is an important topic that requires education, understanding, and acceptance at a societal and systemic level

  •  The unique challenges that face individuals with neurodivergent profiles, such as ADHD and dyslexia, in education and the workforce.

  •  How through his podcast, Neurodivergent Mates alongside his work as a Neurodiversity Specialist at Untapped and as co-founder at Neurodiversity Academy, Will is working to support and advocate for neurodivergent individuals

  •  The increasing appetite we're noticing as lived-experience consultants from organisations to understand and support different neurotypes, and the acknowledgement that when it comes to awareness and understanding, we've still a log way to go

  •  How open and transparent conversations about neurodiversity can help bridge the gap and create a more inclusive society,

  • Why it's essential that organisations involve neurodivergent individuals in co-designing strategies for embracing neurodiversity

  •  The crucial role allies play in supporting the neurodivergent community 

  •  Psychological safety, and conditions for disclosure that are essential for creating inclusive environments

  • The pressing and urgent need for research to keep apace with the growing desire for increased understanding around the unique personal and professional needs of neurodivergent people, and the importance of applying evidence-based and evidence-informed decision-making as we navigate our way through leading diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives



 Links to resources discussed in the episode:

  • Read more about Neurodiversity Academy here 
  • Listen to Neurodivergent Mates here 
  • Read more about the research that unpacks the statistics around obstacles to disclosure in the workplace here 
  • Learn about Untapped here 
  • Read Nancy Doyle's blog on ADHD and leadership here  
  • Read research, "The Strives, Struggles, and Successes of Women Diagnosed With ADHD as Adults" here 
  • Wondering if you might have ADHD, or what your diagnosis and support options are if you do? Listen to Ep #34 Who’s Who in Adult ADHD: Navigating Assessment, Diagnosis and Support in Australia, with me here 

Liked this episode? Here's how to rate and review on Apple Podcasts!

Your ratings and reviews help us support more people, just like you, to imagine and create inclusive impact that benefits our future. Click here, scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to share what you loved most about this and other episodes! 

Thanks for tuning into another episode, and for your interest in Inclusive Impact. 



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