By - Alison Bruce Rea

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Morgan Guaranty Chairman Lewis Preston suffers from dyslexia. So do a lot of executives, including Castle & Cooke Chairman David Murdock, real estate developer Alfred Taubman, and television writer-producer (The A-Team) Stephen J. Cannell. Far from stopping them, dyslexia may have helped their careers. Dyslexia is a language disorder that can cause sufferers to see the images and orders of letters reversed: b may read as d, or form look like from. It can impair the ability to read, write, listen, or even speak. It affects about a tenth of the U.S. population, mostly men, and it runs in families. For most dyslexics, the disorder is more pronounced in childhood, but it can be persistent and severe. Delos R. Smith, U.S. budget economist at the Conference Board, a business-supported New York research outfit, spoke gibberish until he was 9. Like Leonardo da Vinci, he writes backward: his script is legible only when held to a mirror. Often he photocopies his notes onto special transparent plastic, which he then flips and copies again onto paper for a version that reads normally. Other dyslexics devise different ways to handle writing problems. Stephen Cannell, who writes l5 pages of program scripts a day in addition to running his TV production company, has an assistant correct his badly misspelled English. Arthur Birsh, owner of Playbill, a combination magazine and theater program, has lessened his reliance on secretaries by using a word processor that corrects spelling. Many dyslexics develop abilities that counterbalance their difficulty. Often they build strong memories to help them avoid the written word. Another dyslexic executive at Morgan Guaranty, Donald Riefler, says dyslexics ''get very verbal. If you can't read well, you ask someone the right questions and get right to the point.'' Richard Strauss, head of a large Dallas real estate development company, says he leans on advisers for information and prefers speaking on the phone or in person to writing memos or letters. G. Chris Andersen, a managing director at Drexel Burnham Lambert who frequently invents financial products -- he created a bond that pays principal and interest in gold, for example -- says he ''deals in patterns, concepts, and abstractions. I process information differently. I come up with conclusions that may be unique.'' School and jobs can cause trouble for dyslexics, who may have a hard time doing the work. Richard Strauss flunked out of high school twice and went to work at 19. David Murdock left school in the ninth grade because of his dyslexia. In general, dyslexics fare better as entrepreneurs than as members of big corporations. Because dyslexia forces sufferers to develop a habit of hard work, some people are fans of it in its mild form. Citicorp Chairman John Reed confided to an associate that he might have had a learning disability when young and that he would prefer a child with a slight learning problem because ''it gives that little bit of extra drive a child ordinarily does not have.'' David Murdock is blunter: ''Having dyslexia didn't stop me anywhere, any way,'' he insists. ''It was probably an advantage.''