Have you ever wondered what makes a good leader? You may be surprised to discover it’s likely not what you think.
Many of today’s leaders are change averse, problem focused and highly distracted – a product of being immersed in ongoing information overload.
But thanks to neuroscience, we now know what exceptional leaders do well. Here are five research-proven ways to be a better leader:
1. Take a Break
We know that everyday leadership tasks such as analyzing, evaluating and decision making are very demanding for the brain. To make matters worse, our typical response of trying to focus even harder on these tasks further reduces our cognitive capacity and creative problem solving. In fact, when it comes to having new insights, taking a break can be far more effective. Studies now suggest that taking ‘awake’ rest breaks have a positive impact on both memory and learning, while physical activity improves cognitive performance and stimulates brain cell growth.
2. Name the Emotion
There’s a prevailing belief in organizations that talking about emotions is unhelpful and not recommended. However, suppressing emotion has been found to be a high-intensity task for the brain, causing your Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) to be less effective, your memory to degrade and your stress to increase. The most effective leaders know how to regulate their emotions, by putting language to the emotions they experience..
3. Focus on the Right Thing
Research shows that our brain’s neural pathways become stronger the more we use them. This means that the more we focus on a given thought, the easier it is for the brain to retrieve and utilize that information again. Great leaders focus on positive and desired outcomes, thoughts and solutions rather than on problems and what should be avoided.
4. Use Your Soft Skills
The brain is a social organ, conditioned to move towards socially rewarding situations and away from potentially threatening ones. Yet “soft skills” such as connecting with others, building trust or rallying a team are often seen as a mere nice-to-haves, not the core, business-critical skills they are. The best leaders realize this and are highly socially astute.
5. Tune In, Not Out
How many times have you looked at your phone today? Searched the web? Responded to email or text? Posted an update on LinkedIn? Scientists say that in this constant mode of distraction, leaders are likely to miss important social cues from others. That’s because they’re operating in a state of working memory fatigue and associated limbic arousal. Great leaders understand the importance of focusing on one task at a time, using mindfulness to stay fully present.
Noesis delivers neuroleadership consulting and training to organizations handling everyday change and major transformation initiatives. We help our Fortune 500 clients scientifically improve leadership.