The neuroscience of leadership

PreRamble:  Always a delightful bonus to come across a piece of research that supports your work.

In a recent NY Times interview, David Rock, director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, talks about brain chemistry and the importance of shared goals to effective leadership and teamwork.

Turns out, getting work teams “on the same page” leverages basic processes in the brain to influence affiliation and collaborative behavior.

“We make a decision about each person we interact with that impacts basic processing and many other things. The decision we make about everyone is, “Are you in my ‘in’ group or in my ‘out’ group?’” This subconscious perception has a huge impact [on individual behavior] based on the answers to: “Is this person similar to me? Are they on my team? Do we have shared goals, or are they in my “out” group?”

Rock identifies this dynamic as “relatedness” and suggests that using this “neurobiology of trust” to create “an ‘in’ group” is the foundation of successful leadership and teamwork.

And the research is really clear …

“The brain divides everything into two categories: threats and rewards.  It’s critical for managers to make their employees feel that they are on the same team.  If you can create shared goals among people, you can create a strong “in” group quite quickly.”

The Take-Away:  Great news for the Strategic Overview.  A shared process of focused inquiry and dialogue can create a strong ”in” group dynamic. Consensus around the realities of the current state can create new clarity, energy, understanding and unity to drive decision-making and action.

Post-Note: Dr. David Rock is a thought leader and practitioner in the field of human performance and coaching. Neuroleadership is an emerging field of study that connects neuroscientific knowledge with the fields of leadership development, management training, change management, systems thinking, consulting and coaching. The full interview/article with David Rock appears on the NY Times website.  His book, “Your Brain at Work” is available for on Amazon.