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The Neuroscience-Leadership Connection

Leadership is frequently difficult to describe. In many ways, leadership is one of those murky concepts that we frequently throw about without truly understanding what it means. What qualities distinguish an excellent leader? What is the significance of leadership qualities? What happens to our brains when we achieve these leadership qualifications? If you posed these questions to a thousand different people, you’d probably get a thousand different replies. While “excellent leadership” is a broad and unquantifiable concept, we recognize it when we see it. For whatever reason, certain people are born with characteristics that draw hordes of devoted followers almost effortlessly. These “natural leaders” are frequently among the most powerful figures in history. Natural leaders have accomplished tremendous things on the battlefield, in our political systems, and in our largest firms’ boardrooms. Again, defining what makes these people such good leaders are tough. Finally, we find ourselves waxing poetic about their “magical attributes,” “spark in their eye,” or “that je ne sais quoi.”

Is it really that difficult to define these characteristics? Today, many neuroscientists and psychologists are making great strides in determining what makes these natural leaders “click.” After more than a decade of inquiry and scientific study, the puzzle is now coming together. The picture is increasingly clear: neuroscience and leadership are inextricably linked.

The Value of Social Connections

Neuroscientist Michael L. Platt described the link between neuroscience and leadership in his new book The Leader’s Brain. He focused on some of the lessons that business executives might learn from developments in neuroscientific research. One of the key points he tried to make was that humans are social animals. In our search to define leadership, we should begin with the basic idea that it is a social attribute. This indicates that if you want to be a good leader, you should base all of your efforts on what we currently know about human social connections. The simple things matter the most – social interactions between people. This includes making eye contact, creating a sense of cohesiveness and unity, and employing simple tactics to boost morale. These minor nuances may bubble to the surface of our subconscious, but they are critical to developing a strong sense of leadership.

The Benefits of Group Training

In his book, Micheal L. Platt also discussed something called physiological synchronization. A rowing team is an excellent illustration of physiological synchronization. They must work together as a team to time their strokes and build a rhythm. Neuroscientists revealed that this cohesion was not restricted to their pulse rates or breathing patterns. Platt and his colleagues revealed that these athletes’ brainwave activities were also synchronized using EEG monitors linked to their heads.

This means that if you want your team to function as a cohesive unit, it’s critical that you train and work together. This is a huge dilemma for leaders all across the world in the Covid-19 age. If team members train and develop in their own bubbles, they will not achieve the same level of synchronization that close touch with one another provides. Platt emphasized the value of being able to see, touch, hear, and even smell your teammates.

Accepting Human Emotion as Reality

Although many leaders want to think of themselves as cold, calculating persons who place rationality above all else, this strategy invariably results in a losing battle against humanity’s actual nature. Neuroscientific research has shown that human emotion is inextricably linked to our mental processes in almost every situation. Unfortunately, many leaders have been conditioned to believe that the workplace is a highly formal setting in which all emotions should be left at the door. As an antiquated business mentality has repeatedly underlined, feelings merely get in the way.

Leaders must work with the brains they have been given, whether they like it or not. Humans experience with nearly every firing neuron as they navigate their work settings, even down to our genetic composition. As it turns out, one of the most distinguishing characteristics of a good leader is their capacity to care about others around them.

Why Have Previous Leadership Trends Failed?

The virtue of simplicity is one of the important lessons from recent developments in neuroscientific research. According to research, precise, succinct statements are always more successful. Previous leadership trends may have failed because they became too sophisticated and deviated too far from the established social unit that we are all genetically programmed to accept. Why complicate things with a million different apps when you can just have face-to-face meetings?

Dr. Robert Cooper of Stanford raised an intriguing issue with previous commercial leadership strategies in a previous issue of The Strategy and Leadership Journal. They were mostly based on principles utilized in animal training. Unfortunately, the “carrot and stick” approach does not work with humans. The human mind is obviously far more complicated than that of even the most intelligent animals.

Furthermore, neuroscientific research has demonstrated that the human brain responds to threats and rewards in an unusual way. Neuroscientist Evian Gordon points out in The Brain Revolution: Know and Train New Brain Habits that our brains have five times more neural networks for processing threats than rewards. In other words, the “carrot and the stick” strategy is never balanced for humans since we are built to utilize more brainpower to avoid risk rather than maximize rewards.

Conclusion

With the tremendous advancement of neuroscience, the concept of leadership is no longer as elusive as it previously was. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “natural leader,” you can use neuroscientific studies to obtain exceptional results. We can all go for the next level of achievement if we cherish social relationships, develop mutual respect, and start treating one other like human beings. Today’s top leaders should seek to understand how our emotions and perceptions of risks apply to the average workplace.

On the one hand, these advancements in neuroscience are game changers. They, on the other hand, underscore principles that many of us already know at a deep, subconscious level.

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