How Research on the Brain is Helping Forge our Understanding of Good Leadership

Wendy Sage-Hayward
Wendy Sage-Hayward

I am particularly intrigued by the recent research being conducted in the world of neuroscience. We are learning more about our brain and how it functions everyday (not just when something goes wrong with it). I believe this body of knowledge is particularly relevant to leadership and to families running businesses together.

We know for example that when we recognize someone for a job well done that their brain releases a chemical called Dopamine. Dopamine rewards us with a sense of pleasure. Likewise we can also experience a downward spiral in our confidence and performance when we do not receive positive feedback over a long period of time.

We also know that our brain receives and processes negative comments and rejection in the same way as it receives physical pain. The old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is not true as far as our brain is concerned.

For me the most exciting aspect of this research is that it provides the evidence for why leadership development is so critical for the next generation of leaders. Leaders are not just born, they are also developed. Some of the executives and business owners I have worked with in the past have needed proof of why good leadership principles work. For those less relationship oriented personalities, the new discoveries in neuroscience are providing the evidence they need to lead in a more powerful and effective way.


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