Leading with the Brain in Mind
Five unexpected lessons about leadership and the brain
Leadership expert Sandra McDowell, speaker at the 2017 Toastmasters International Convention and author of Your Mother Was Right: 15 Unexpected Lessons About Leadership and the Brain, shows how neuroscience provides new insights into human nature and behavior. Neuroleadership, a new and developing discipline, helps explain why leadership efforts and organizational change initiatives are unsuccessful. Here are five insights from her book (all based on motherly advice) that can help you support effective leadership and sustainable change:
1. Go To Bed
According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, more than 30% of the population is sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation impacts mood and can create health problems such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Getting a good night’s sleep makes a big difference in your personal well-being and your cognitive performance.
2. You Are What You Eat
Does your diet impact your mood and the way you act personally and professionally? For most of us, when we’re hungry, we get grumpy or angry. Although it’s common sense to eat when we’re hungry, it is easy to fall victim to that “one-more-thing-to-do” before we eat trap. This doesn’t bode well for those we lead.
3. Count To 10
Overreacting in the workplace (often due to sleep deprivation and a poor diet) is hard on the reputation and can be tough to overcome — especially if you’re a leader. Maintaining an environment free from perceived threats will improve the performance of those you lead. When you count to 10 before reacting to a stimulus that is about to set you off, it allows your thinking brain to process so that you can respond rationally rather than emotionally.
4. Pay Attention
Mindfulness, also known as meditation, is good for your health. Research has shown that mindfulness training reduces stress hormones in the body, boosts immunity and increases focus. Research has also shown that a distracted state of mind is often more anxious, stressed and depressed — which can lead to decreased engagement and performance.
5. You Can’t Do Two Things At Once
Frequent multitasking has been linked with memory impairment, increased stress levels and inability to focus on important or complicated tasks. Just as you need to be conscious of your own attempts of multitasking, as a leader you need to be conscious of the environment in which you and your team members work. It’s your responsibility as a leader to create a culture that fosters and supports focus.
Excerpted fromYour Mother Was Right: 15 Unexpected Lessons About Leadership and the Brain, by Sandra McDowell.