Five Ways That Brain Science Can Contribute to Effective Leadership Training

By Mike Vaughan - June 11, 2017

David Rock, editor of the NeuroLeadership Journal, has said that by better understanding the brain, leaders can align the way they work with the brain’s affinity to create a more productive and successful experience. The following neural leadership insights, when incorporated into leadership and management training programs could inspire leaders to develop their own “neural leadership” style to help meet the psychological needs of individuals with whom they work.

Fairness: It is better to be fair than to be right. Neuroscientists have discovered that when people feel they have been treated unfairly, there is activity in the amygdala, which performs a primary role in processing memory and emotional reactions. In short, memories of being treated unfairly run deep. Understanding this innate need is helpful in creating relationships that focus on respect, acceptance and equality.

Social: Introvert? Extrovert? It doesn’t matter. Our brains are predominantly social organs, so we need to bring them some level of socially driven interaction or goal. Most corporate leadership training curricula, however, focus on optimizing results instead of improving social interactions. The unintended consequence of focusing on results instead of people is that, over time, even top performers will feel devalued, less secure or even unfairly treated.

Sleep: If Thomas Edison had slept more, he might have made fewer mistakes. Edison and many prominent thinkers in history have encouraged work over sleep. But the brain needs sleep. Debates about why this is true are rampant among neuroscientists, but during sleep, it is believed we consolidate memories, make new connections, conserve energy and unconsciously chip away at problems. People can tell if they’re getting enough sleep by whether they wake up rested without the need for an alarm.

Attention: When tasks compete for the same mental resources, the quality of results of all tasks is diminished. In other words, leaders should stop multitasking and focus on one task. If not, they may experience a decline in quality of thought and in energy, as both erode with prolonged multitasking.

Predicting: We are wired to predict. For instance, when we are in any situation, we try to make sense of it by predicting what will happen next. The danger in creating predictions is that most are inaccurate or incomplete. With experience, predictions often improve. However, if leaders hold on to predictions, it may stop them from seeking new perspectives.

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