How a CEO With Dyslexia and ADHD Runs His Company

Selim Bassoul of Middleby Corp. tries to focus on the big picture

WSJ: What are some ways that having dyslexia and ADHD affects your leadership style?

MR. BASSOUL: Dyslexia has forced me to be quite conceptual, because I’m not good with detail. I think in general rather than in specific [terms]. That allows me to step back and take in the big picture rather than get bogged down in details. Because of my weaknesses and handicaps, I’ve learned other ways to accomplish the same goal at faster speed.

As a dyslexic you have no choice but to rely on others for help with detail and tactical tasks. You become a great judge of character. You have to select the best team around you.

Then you have ADHD, which makes you restless but it can also be a huge motivator for action. It prompts you to go out of the office and into the field. You find yourself constantly on the front line. I don’t like to be confined to the office. I hate meetings. I am constantly visiting customers, our field offices, our manufacturing plants. I know the operations of my customers better than them, which helps create solutions for them prior to them knowing what they need.
.. If people know that you’re not an email guy, people don’t send you email anymore. It’s that simple. From time to time I use the phone. The phone is a good thing. But it is almost always one-on-one.
..WSJ: Have you ever faced any problems in the workplace because of your disabilities?MR. BASSOUL: I am restless and tend to be impatient. That could sometimes create friction with some of my subordinates, colleagues or peers when I was rising as a manager.

I always attracted specific people who liked the speed I was working at, and the fact that it basically had no paperwork. Just “let’s go get it done.”

.. It is hard to say no to things. It is sometimes better not to jump into action. Email forces people to respond to an email sent. People sometimes feel overwhelmed. You don’t need to respond to everything.