What is neuroleadership?

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25th Jun 2012
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Amy Brann explores what this fascinating new field may mean to you.

What is neuroleadership?

Neuroleadership is the field that uses neuroscience (the scientific study of the brain) to underpin leadership concepts. Due to advances in our understanding around how the brain works over the last twenty to thirty years more fields are turning to neuroscience to gain previously unavailable insights.
"Neuro-leadership starts with the science and looks at how it can be applied in a leadership arena. It has a very pure agenda."
Marketing now has a successful companion field called neuromarketing. They put people in fMRI scanners (a type of brain scanner) to see what is going on in the brains of people when, for example, they look at a new advertising campaign. They are able to see what effect the advert is actually having on a person, rather than what people think about the advert, which is all old focus groups could offer. Economics now has neuroeconomics, which gets to the core science behind decision making, among other things.

Why has it come about?

The brain is a hugely complex organ, however we know vastly more about how it works than most people realise. Subsequently, many people are still working off outdated assumptions and their results reflect this. Neuroleadership starts with the science and looks at how it can be applied in a leadership arena. It has a very pure agenda. In the future it is likely to expand to cover all facets of leadership. Currently it is positioning itself to lead the way in:
  • Decision-making.
  • Trust.
  • Self-leadership.
  • Social interaction.
  • Collaboration.
  • Influence.
  • Strategy.
  • Organisational behaviour.
Due to the nature of neuroleadership the findings can be applied in three main ways. First, for the individual -  anyone leading him or herself can better equip themselves to understand how they work. Second, anyone leading teams or leading clients are best placed to know what they are dealing with and get the desired response. Third, those leading whole organisations can strategically work in a way that delivers results by understanding key human drivers and behaviours.

What impact is it likely to have?

The benefits it gives are to help create very flexible, effective leaders. Old school styles of leadership training would often give prescribed ways of doing things. These would be deduced based on observational methods of research. In practice, the prescription may or may not work with optimal effectiveness. Neuroleadership helps people understand the core of what is going on and equips them to approach any situation and work out what the component are they need to pay attention to.
Within five years all disciplines and training will have a neuroscience component to them. Neurotraining will be the first port of call for individuals wanting to get the best results possible. This is because understanding what is really going on in situations dramatically reduces the guesswork.
There will still be a blend of art and science in leading others, or selling, or managing but the baseline being operated from will be far higher. One day soon leaders will look at their teams and be able to run through a checklist in their head of things that they need and things that will help them perform more desirably. This will be thanks to understanding how their brains actually work.
Amy Brann is author of Make Your Brain Work (to be published 2013) and a monthly newsletter about the brain from Synaptic Potential.

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