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Can Understand Your Brain Make You a Better Leader

Do you feel like a natural-born leader? Or are you, like most of us, piecing together your leadership skills by observing great and not-so-great leaders in your network? Leadership skills are hard-won – usually through trial and error. But what if there was a more scientific way to understand how to bring out the best in others?

“What we are coming to understand is that there's a lot of information that's not available to our consciousness in terms of what we’re thinking and feeling, and the processes that are driving our behaviour,” the tools of neuroscience, the insights, the knowledge that we're gaining can help us to get a better grasp on human behaviour and human nature.” So, what is neuroscience teaching us about being better leaders?

“Firstly, our brains are wired to connect. We have a social brain network that manages our connection with others, so if we can dial into that we can improve the relationships between ourselves and the people we lead.

What does that mean for us in the workplace?

When you experience uncertainty, your brain processes this as a message that your ‘model’ or understanding of the world isn’t accurate and needs adjusting. This ‘inaccuracy’ is seen as a threat, which can lead to avoiding uncertainty at all costs in your decision-making, even if that means missing out on a potentially positive outcome.

Understanding this can help us better navigate tricky accountability conversations or giving and receiving feedback. The brain sees these conversations as a ‘social occasion’ and therefore it looks for cues that the situation is safe. For these conversations to go well, it’s important you are honest, engaged, genuine, and sincere. Authenticity is crucial, as our brains are capable of picking up even the smallest of clues that the person we’re talking with isn’t interested in what we’re saying. By being mindful to genuinely listen, you will ensure your conversation is as effective as possible.

Here are some other ways that we can harness our brains to help us and the people we lead feel well and do well at work:

Intentionally focus on the positive – Be mindful about the information you pay attention to, as this gets privileged access to the decision-making parts of the brain. As a leader, you can help your people focus on the positive by deliberately crafting your communication. Doing so will support their wellbeing as their brains make more optimistic predictions about the world and help them to make decisions that encourage moving forward rather than being based on fear, which encourages retreat.


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