Critical leadership insight

Brain Science

At corporations human behavior is based on how the brain works. Understanding the conscious and unconscious underpinnings of this behavior helps us to make organized interventions because it enhances our understanding of why we do what we do.

Complexity, volatility and stress are not going away. In every corner of our organizations, the heat is on to do more with less, do it quickly and show results. Threats – real and perceived, low-grade and intense – are everywhere.

HERE’S THE PROBLEM: when your brain reacts to perceived threat, you are less likely to be creative, optimally solve complex problems, make connections, see new perspectives and be productive.

“When experiencing perceived threat, the prefrontal cortex of your brain, which is responsible for higher order analysis and thinking, goes off-line,” explains Carol Connolly, a CCL senior faculty member. “This reaction is perfect wiring for physical danger and survival but not the best time to make a strategic business decision. You’ve been hijacked at a time when you need to be at your best.”

The connection between stress and brain function is one area of neuroscience that will change the landscape of leadership development. Advances in neuroscience are giving us insight into how people learn and remember, how we manage our emotions, how we behave in the moment, and how we build long-term resiliency.

With the advent of fMRI technology, we now have a chance to infer what is going on inside the brains of leaders so that we can augment “external” behavioral and psychological approach to leadership development with an “internal” understanding of the brain functioning. “When the brain is examined in the context of personal or organizational development, it can provide amazing insights and can also provide a template for targeted strategies in accelerating the execution of strategy” writes Dr. Srini Pillay in his book “Your brain and business”.

Advantages of brain-based interventions

  • They target relevant brain functions which may be suppressed during anxiety
  • They provide a system to use in various functional situations that is research-based
  • They target unconscious influences
  • They repackage older information so that it is more digestible
  • They allow for distancing from the self during heated situations