One of the things you don’t hear a lot about when folks talk about persons on the autism spectrum is to be an effective leader at work. Most of the time when there is talk about the employment of aspies, it’s usually about how hard it is to keep a job or talk about how we prefer certain jobs. The quiet assumption is that someone on the spectrum is not going to get to a place where they manage people or projects.
But the fact is, we do sometimes stumble into positions where we have to provide leadership and vision. For me, that’s being a pastor. My calling doesn’t allow me to be holed up in a corner somewhere. I have to deal with people’s problems and come up with solutions. And I have to do this all the while having a condition that makes communication somewhat difficult.
All of this leaves me with questions on how to be a leader or manager who happens to be autistic. Luckily, there are resources available for those of us who are “aspie leaders.” Asperger Management is website I have stumbled upon every so often. It’s run by a British man named Malcolm Johnson. Johnson shares tips to help those of us in the workforce that have to lead. Here’s a blog post he writes about learning how to appreciate your colleagues:
I have been working with my boss and a junior colleague on a recruitment drive for new customers recently.
It was the responsibility of the junior employee to follow-up on the leads that we generated and to ensure that prospective customers received the appropriate documentation to enable the sales to be closed.
During a conversation this morning, my boss mentioned how the customers had commented on how efficient the junior member of staff had been in administering these leads and how she had been instrumental in their decision to buy from us. My boss said that he had thanked her for doing so.
I dropped her a line to say likewise also to register my approval and support. In turn, I received an e-mail from her thanking me for the acknowledgement.
A few years ago I don’t think that I would have written to her.
I have come to appreciate how important it is to acknowledge the efforts of others. I have also come to notice how this is normally reciprocated and how it builds a positive disposition from them towards me.
I’ve had to learn this myself and I still have ways to go in this field. It’s helpful to read that someone else has had to learn something that comes so easily to others.
Another person to look for advice is the blogger Penelope Trunk. Also on the spectrum, she writes about career advice, management tips and other issues.
People with Aspergers can be leaders, but to paraphrase Ginger Rogers, we have to it backwards and in high heels.
Okay, maybe not the high heels…unless they come in a size 12.