Business Advice

Richard Branson on why we need to re-think dyslexia: “It’s merely a different way of thinking”

Dominic Powell /

Virgin Airlines founder and serial entrepreneur Richard Branson believes dyslexia should no longer be treated as a learning disorder, but just as a “different way of thinking”.

In a recent column in the Sunday Times, Branson outlines how he believes the stigma towards dyslexics needs to change, highlighting the numerous famous business leaders and scientists who had dyslexia, including Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Henry Ford.

Read more: Richard Branson on why we need to support more female entrepreneurs

In school, Branson discussed how his learning disability was considered a “handicap”, with his teachers thinking he was “lazy and dumb, and I couldn’t keep up or fit in”.

“It is time we lost the stigma around dyslexia. It is not a disadvantage; it is merely a different way of thinking,” Branson writes.

“Once freed from archaic schooling practices and preconceptions, my mind opened up. Out in the real world, my dyslexia became my massive advantage: It helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems.”

The column coincided with the launch of Branson’s new charity, Made By Dyslexia, an organisation with the goal of getting the world to properly understand and support dyslexia. A YouGov survey undertaken by the charity reveals that just three percent of people believe dyslexia to be a positive trait.

“To change perceptions, we must celebrate all that dyslexic people have achieved, so that young people no longer give up before they have even started,” Branson says.

“We must make sure every school not only has the resources necessary to identify dyslexia, but also the support necessary to champion dyslexics and enable them to thrive.”

Branson has spoken before on how dyslexia has helped him to be a better leader and chief executive, noting the main advantage has been the need to simplify things.

“The reason why I think people who are dyslexic seem to do well in life, having struggled at school, is that we tend to simplify things,” he said.

Branson told Bloomberg in 2015 his dyslexia had kept things simple “for myself, and therefore, Virgin”.

“We do not use jargon. Everything is very clear-cut and simple,” he said.

“If you have a learning disability, you also become a very good delegator. You know what your weaknesses are and you know what your strengths are, and you make sure you find great people to step in and deal with your weaknesses.”

“Whether you are dyslexic or not, delegation is such an important thing for a good leader to be good at doing.”

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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