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The Neuroscience of Being a Good Leader

Neuroscience has gained so much popularity in the last few years, because of advancements made by scientists in human nature and behavior change.

I find neuroscience so interesting, and have been spending a lot of my free time learning more about it.

All of this research is especially relevant for being a good leader in the workplace, where executives need to change the behavior of potentially thousands of employees.

But getting people to change their behavior is easier said than done. Change literally hurts us. In studies of people who have had coronary bypass surgery, only one in nine people adopt healthier day-to-day habits.

I won’t go into too much detail behind why this is, but it’s basically because of the parts of the brain that are used to develop new habits vs continuing with old habits.

The part of the brain used to build new habits uses a lot more energy than the part that’s used for old habits.

A simple example is when someone that’s been driving a car for years goes somewhere in the world where they drive on the other side of the road. They find that driving incredibly difficult.

I want to go through a few things that leaders should keep in mind, that will help them be more effective and more productive.

The reason that employee pulse surveys matter so much, is that they can give you insights into things like how people feel about how much freedom they have and what their relationships at work are like, which as you’ll soon see, are very important.

All of what I’m saying is backed by science.

1.  Treat everyone as an equal

Confirmation bias is one of my favorite things about the brain and our subconscious. I find it so interesting, but it’s a really big problem.

We like people that are similar to us. If we agree with someone’s beliefs, we’re more likely to be friends with them.

Similarly, when we can’t relate to another person, we rarely give them the benefit of the doubt, and our brains don’t even process much of what they have to say.

This can affect our hiring decisions, and it’s very important to hire for diversity to get unique perspectives on things.

The way to fix this is to regularly challenge yourself. Keep reminding yourself about this, and try your best to avoid these biases.

2.  Go for a walk

Going for a short walk can help you stay healthy, and be more creative.

A University of Michigan study found that people who spent time outside were better able to solve creative problems.

Researchers at Stanford University tested creativity in people that were walking, and found that creativity improved by an average of 60% when the person was walking.

According to research, all you need is 5 minutes outdoors to get that creative boost.

3.  Be inclusive

A study on the effects of being ignored at work found that “having no role to play in work culture was more detrimental to one’s well-being than having a negative role to play.”

Little things, like saying good morning to your coworkers, or inviting them out to lunch with you can really go a long way.

Everyone just wants to feel included.

This is especially important for new hires, who are so nervous about this new environment, and just want to fit in.

4.  Take as much downtime as you need

In a four-year study, researchers tracked the work habits of employees at the Boston Consulting Group.

In one experiment, consultants on a team took a break from work one day a week. In a second experiment, every member of a team scheduled one weekly night of uninterrupted personal time, even though they were accustomed to working from home in the evenings.

Everyone resisted at first, fearing they would only be postponing work. But over time, the consultants learned to love their scheduled time off because it consistently refreshed them, and made them more willing to work, which made them more productive overall.

After five months, employees experimenting with deliberate periodic rest were more satisfied with their jobs, more likely to envision a long-term future at the company, more content with their work-life balance and prouder of their accomplishments.

5.  Being the boss isn’t stressful

A study from Stanford University found that the higher people are in the pecking order, the less stress they experience.

Researchers from Berkeley showed in a study that having a higher status among others mattered more than a pay increase when it came to one’s happiness. This higher status means more autonomy at work, and they also have more job security.

So even though CEOs have more responsibility, they have more freedom, are paid more, and are generally more respected.


Source: Business Innovation


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