Neuroscience & Leadership

I was so excited yesterday to read the Special Report of Soundview on The Brain Behind Business: How the New Neuroscience Is Changing Leadership.

Two of my favourite themes, leadership and Neuroscience, were combined, for my pleasure. My mind was so to say, reformatted instantly as I read through the document, especially at this time, when I was diligently preparing the NLP practitioner Group’s material for discussions.

The new discoveries in Neuroscience cast a new light on the functioning of the Brain, which in some cases affirming to the long time practices of human in leadership skills and in other cases dispelling others. But perhaps more importantly they are bringing in hereto new practices.

The social aspect of the Brain is now a new term and its discovery is being developed. Interestingly enough I am wondering on the break throughs that are possible with the development of Social networks and collective intelligence brought by the Face book, YouTube, flickr, and the like.

The Neuroscience of Leadership

In 2006,Strategy+Business magazine published a groundbreaking article titled “The Neuroscience of Leadership” by David Rock,CEO of Results Coaching Systems, and Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz. Rock is a management coach and the author of Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to

Transforming Performance at Work, Personal Best and Your Brain at Work, which will be published in October 2009. Schwartz isa research psychiatrist at the School of Medicine at the

University of California, LosAngeles, whose books include The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force and Brain Lock :Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior.

In the story for Strategy+Business, Rock and Schwartz explain how many companies, such as Toyota and Springfield Remanufacturing Corp, have been able to create successful

business models by tapping into corporate practices that “resonate deeply with the innate predispositions of the human brain.”

Rock and Schwartz point out that 20 years of neuroscience research have given scientists and psychologists a better perspective on the ways people consciously and subconsciously

act and respond to their environments.

They write: “Imaging technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging

(fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), along with brain wave analysis technologies such as quantitative electroencephalography (QEEG) have revealed hitherto unseen neural connections in the living human brain.”

With the help of the latest breakthroughs in computer analysis, researchers have been able to link their theoretical work with the brain and the ways it thinks, feels, responds and perceives.

According to Rock and Schwartz, here are six things the latest research by neuroscientists can teach managers and executives about the art and craft of leadership:

1. Change can be painful because it can trigger physiological discomfort.

2. Behaviorism, “based on typical incentives and threats (the carrot and the stick),” doesn’t work for very long.

3. Constructive performance feedback, which means, “Politely tell people what they are doing

wrong,” doesn’t engage people.

4. Paying attention creates chemical and physical reactions in the brain.

5. Our expectations and preconceptions shape our reality.

6. Repeated, purposeful and focused attention can lead to long-lasting personal evolution.

The Social Nature of the Brain

Since the publication of “The Neuroscience of Leadership,” Rock continues to explore and write about what leaders can learn from new brain research. He has been fascinated by the latest discoveries in the social nature of the brain.

In an exclusive interview, Rock says that a major shift has taken place in the way neuroscientists understand how attention changes the brain. He explains,

“What we are seeing now is that attention is so much a function of the social environment. The brain is attuned to avoid social threats, like a drop in status; and to achieve social rewards, like a sense of connectedness with people.

The big surprise has been that the brain networks for social pain and pleasure use very similar networks for physical threats and rewards. This means that Maslow was kind of wrong—to the

brain, the social is as important as the physical.”