Connection Between Neuroscience and Leadership

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Understanding neuroscience has a great impact on leadership development. The study of neuroscience and its implication provides insights to the leaders, especially from the change management perspective. Different researches and studies of neuroscience with the perspective of leadership are available. I intended to review different literature to analyze the relationship between neuroscience and leadership. I covered the different aspects of neuroscience with the perspective of leadership which are named culture, communication, collaboration, and decision making. I found that a stronger grip on neuroscience helps leaders to become more successful and greater. Here is a glimpse of my literature review.

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As we know that there is a major difference between management and leadership. Managers deals with the things needed to get the job done effectively, on the other hand, leaders deals with change. The current era in which we are living in the era of globalization. There is a technological advancement with innovations that helped people to come closer to each other in a way that our world has become the global village. one sitting in remote areas can easily connect or interact with a person sitting in other countries. These kinds of globalization, technical advancement, and rapid changes require leaders who can develop the new leadership pipeline to target and motivate the big crowd effectively.

To cater to all these challenges, there are numerous theories are presented, however, the work of neuroscientists is above all. Who explained biological and physiological scientific bases which can make leaders great. This scientific study and base of neuroscience can be categorized as culture, communication, collaboration, resilience, social intelligence, and decision making.

According to Edward Thorndike, social intelligence is all about the ability of understanding and managing men and women, boys and girls in a way that they can act wisely. Another social scientist Ross honey narrates social intelligence as the aggregated measure of evolved social belief, attitude, and self-and- social awareness. There is a phenomenon, which is termed resonance. This phenomenon tells us when leaders get attuned to what their followers are thinking, they start showing care, empathy, respect, kindness, etc. even the brain of leaders become as one with others and then leaders start following a completely different path as they become more conscious about their followers and they don’t show and react independently. This happens because of three types of neurons named:

  • Mirror neurons
  • Spindle cells
  • Oscillator

Mirror neurons work and get activated when we observe or see someone performing some also has a subset that works to pick up emotional cues. This subset of mirror neurons is more powerful and more effective for the brain than a verbal context of a conversation. The second more important type of neuron is what we call a spindle cell which has a body four times as bigger as an ordinary cell. The main function of the spindle cell is that it helps to communicate the information to be faster. By connecting with mirror neurons of emotions spindle cell creates social guidance systems. This spindle cell works when we have to choose some options between two or more things, or when we have to make decisions for things for which we have two or more than two directions. At the stage of choosing one option, these cell fire neural pathways which are termed as intuition or gut feelings. Unfortunately, many leaders who are logical, thinking or reasoning-oriented leaders ignore their intuition and gut feelings and they just follow a logical way to opt for one thing among many or make their decision on reasoning. However, it is now proved by neuroscientists that this reaction of intuition or gut feeling has a biological basis. Therefore it is a suggestion for leaders by neuroscientists to pay attention to their intuition or gut feelings in a while because these gut feelings help to choose one of the best options between two or more things. The third type of neuron is the oscillators. This type of neuron basically helps to coordinate our body movement. So if a leader wants to be great and effective he can be great and effective by an understanding of these neural circuitries and then by applying and using them in his leadership style.

Understanding of these neurons proved by neuroscientists can also help leaders to cultivate a desired culture within the organization. As we that every organization has a vision, mission, and organizational culture. The employees learn this culture from communication, accepted behavior, dress code policy, etc. They also fire neural pathways to portray their behavior, but problems occur when an organization undergoes a massive change and leaders have to deal with this problem. Bringing change in organizational culture creates a lot of problems as leaders have to rewire the existing cultural connections in the mind of employees. So to cater to this problem, neuroscientists suggest leaders emulate the core of that change to instill a cultural change, should create a state of resonance. According to neuroscientists, a fear or thread-based system is not suitable by any means because such a system overburdens the cognitive capabilities and creates a stressful work-based environment, which limits the performance and commitments of employees. They also suggest that transparent, clear, and straightforward communication also enhances the trust of a leader, because such communication triggers the mirror neuron circuitry, which ultimately helps to bring change.

There is another aspect of neuroscience involved in decision –making process of leaders. Usually, leaders make their decision based on the same reason, therefor their neuro system and neural network become stronger over time because of the repetition. However, according to neuroscientists, leaders must weaken the existing neural network by changing their behavior and thoughts if they want to bring change.

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