Profiling the disabled business leaders who have excelled in their career

10 January 2020


True diversity and inclusion aims to ensure that disability is never side-lined. Alternative viewpoints and backgrounds can contribute to the success of a company, with inclusive working environments for disabled employees can be found to see 28 per cent higher revenue, whilst also bolstering a diverse team and promoting an inclusive culture.

Recognising the incredible achievements of some of the leaders heading up the boardroom allows us to highlight role models that all businesses should look to emulate. Here at Audeliss, we are proud to highlight three influential disabled leaders in business today, all of whom are evidencing their contribution to increasing the visibility and representation of disabled people in business, while also boasting highly successful careers at the same time.

Hiroki Takeuchi, CEO, GoCardless

FinTech powerhouse GoCardless is headed up by its co-founder and, as of 2015, sole Chief Executive Officer, Hiroki Takeuchi. The drive and ambition to ensure that the business continued its impressive growth and scaling ambitions were not marred by the cycling accident that left Takeuchi in a wheelchair in the autumn of 2016.

Takeuchi recalled in an interview, “even after three months away the business continued to do well, and that was good to see – it’s nice to know something you’ve built has got a life of its own.” His belief and drive is incredibly admirable and evidences his resilience and dedication to his company, despite any restrictions he may have faced along the way. While the 33-year-old says that the cycling accident “obviously changed his life”, he outlined that he has “been able to adapt to it in a way that I don’t have to give up everything that I had before”.

As GoCardless continues to secure regular funding, and after being named as a Fintech sector winner in 2017 by Deloitte, Takeuchi and his team continue to explore the industry and find new ways to create digital payment solutions.


Richard Branson, Founder, The Virgin Group

You would be hard stretched to find anybody that hasn’t heard of the Virgin Group and its recognisable figurehead, Richard Branson. As a man of many trades, Branson has expanded into multiple markets over the span of his illustrious and high-profile 48-year career including, but not limited to, music, aerospace, festivals, hospitality and gaming.

What many people won’t know is that Richard Branson lives with the invisible disability of dyslexia. Having dropped out of school before his sixteenth birthday due to his silent battle with this, his influence and visibility within business today means that he often speaks out about being dyslexic, and how it actually was a big advantage to his success.

Speaking on the topic Branson said that, “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently amazing unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them … from the perspective of wanting to live life to the full, I felt that I had to attempt it.”

Branson is now estimated to have ownership of a combined net worth of over £4 billion and is inspiring people with dyslexia all over the world that the sky’s the limit.


David Neeleman, Founder, JetBlue Airways

As the founder of JetBlue Airways, Neeleman lived throughout a significant proportion of his life unaware that he had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This condition can mean that those living with it can be easily distracted, find discomfort in social situations, often be disorganised and lack the focus that their peers may have. It could be thought this would be a barrier in business; but not for David Neeleman.

While Neeleman struggled with standardised tests and remaining focused in the classroom and traditional academic environments, this certainly didn’t stop him from becoming highly successful in business. Despite only discovering his diagnosis when he was in his thirties, that did not stop Neeleman from changing the flying experience by going on to launch JetBlue’s revolutionary electronic ticketing service – now used across airlines all over the world and introducing what has been described as unparalleled customer service.

As arguably one of the most influential figures in the aviation industry and playing a part in the founding of four successful airlines during his extensive career, for Neeleman, his success is broader than his achievements in business. Managing ADHD in a professional environment can be an incredible challenge, but as Neeleman highlights, one of the most important pieces of advice to consider is to “have personal control of the business and know the industry in which you are working”. That is the key to his success.

Audeliss recognises that the success and the attainment of one’s goals should never be hindered by a disability. In fact, there are an incredible number of accomplished leaders in business that have thrived within their industry, making them true icons in the sphere.