We’ve all experienced leaders that prefer to command and control – rather than collaborate. After all, that’s been the tried and true method of leadership for decades. Yet, according to neuroscience expert Silvia Damiano, from a brain perspective this approach is always doomed to fail.
Silvia has spent a decade using neuroscience to understand leadership. Basically, decoding how our brains work – and how they can be rewired for more influence. As a result she believes a new leadership model is emerging – the i4 Neuroleader – that invites, rather than demands cooperation.
I caught up with Silvia to talk about how – in the age of ‘i-Influence’ – we can adapt our leadership styles to get better results. In particular the experiences that led her to literally rewire her own brain. Check out the full interview here. Otherwise, here are the five keys from our conversation that I will personally be applying:
Collaborate don’t command
Due to technology, there has been a significant shift in the influence world in terms of the access we expect from our leaders. Silvia terms this as the move from an Information Age to an Imagination Age. We now expect to be inspired, we expect to be given the full journey. More importantly – we expect to contribute.
As leaders, we are most tested when things go wrong – when we feel under resourced, under supported and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, that’s when command and control feels the most tempting. Just do what I say and stop asking questions. The irony is that this is when curiosity and collaboration are most important. What other solutions may there be that you can’t see? What opportunities do your team know about, that they don’t feel invited to tell you?
Rewire your brain
It’s a cruel twist of fate that our brains are wired to focus on negative – rather than positive stimulus. However, this has historically been essential for our survival. Think of a bear and a flower – which one would you rather notice first! However with some consistency and dedication we can change that predisposition. Why is this useful for leadership? It’s as simple as personal gravity – we are all attracted to leaders that can help us keep a positive frame of mind.
After an unexpected bout of depression – Silvia made the decision to get curious. As a scientist she knew that if she could figure out exactly what was happening in her brain – essentially what wires had come unstuck – she could fix it. So she flew to the USA, had her brain scanned – and embarked on a 365-day challenge to calm the areas that had become overactive. This involved many methods – including diet and meditation. However what’s most important is her mindset. She knew the issue was the wiring – not her own worth as a human being.
Follow your gut
If you’ve been led to believe intuition is fluffy – it’s time to reconsider. Scientists have recently begun an incredible journey to understanding the biological processes of the nerve that links brain and gut. In particular, they have found that the gut is the first to perceives information – long before the brain catches on. In addition, our guts have a whopping 100-million neurons able to process and analyze that information.
Silvia advocates following any strong gut feelings before waiting for them to make sense logically. To be agile (and sometimes safe) in this world means acting now. Waiting on all the facts and figures means it will often be too late. To tap into your intuition more, she suggests literally closing your eyes and asking “I need to make this decision – what should I do?” That gut feeling that comes next? Follow it.
Develop a more emotional vocabulary
A study at the University of Exeter showed that more areas of the brain activate when listening to poetry, rather than facts and figures. But unfortunately, the emotional vocabulary we use has become far too rigid. This is a problem for leaders because emotional language is how we connect with others – inviting them to trust us and in turn, compel them to act.
Silvia points out that as humans, we all suffer, laugh and have stories. Sharing your emotions with someone lets them see your vulnerability and genuinely connect with you. The result? Increased trust, empathy and loyalty.
(Please bear in mind that this isn’t an invitation to overwhelm someone else with your problems. Instead try just acknowledging where you’re at in that moment – with the intention of being present to whatever situation you currently need to address).
It starts with you
It’s an age-old adage – however if you want your business or those around you to change, it always starts with you. Growing your influence is 100% more about looking inward than it is about those around you.
Understanding how our own brain and intuition work can lead us to be the best individuals we can be. Leaders who inspire and invite cooperation in those around us, rather than demanding it. Is it easy? No. Is it easier than shutting down – ignoring our intuition – and allowing things we can’t control to to run our brains? Yes.
Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration of what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes, Spotify or juliemasters.com.