The Leading Brain

"I read it: Super! Without exaggeration: I rarely read something so consistent and clear recently. Compliments!"

The Leading Brain
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Powerful science-based strategies for achieving peak performance

Neuroscience has revolutionized our understanding of the mind and brain. These new insights will elevate the ways we learn, lead and collaborate to the next level. Learn for your business.


There’s a revolution going on, and yet most businesses seem completely oblivious.


Dazzling new technologies and surprising revelations have radically altered the way we understand our brains. Tools like functional MRI and optogenetics enable scientists to non-invasively observe and manipulate the brain’s regions in real time. Meanwhile, recent discoveries about neuroplasticity, mirror neurons, and oxytocin have exploded long-held myths about our basic limits and motivations. In other words, the game has fundamentally changed. Are your company’s leaders still operating under old rules and outdated assumptions?


Using their ample experience in both neuropsychology and management consulting, internationally recognized experts Dr. Hans W. Hagemann and Friederike Fabritius have distilled the wisdom gleaned from hundreds of their seminars down to a single text. They’ve adapted the popular multi-day presentations they’ve delivered to tens of thousands of leaders all over the world and transformed them into a clear, insightful, and highly entertaining new book.


Aimed primarily at business executives, but applicable everywhere from down in the mailroom to up in the corner office, The Leading Brain: How the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience can empower leaders to create a better working world will show you how to effectively capitalize on the latest advancements in cognitive science. You’ll learn how to regulate your emotions, sharpen your focus, and how to break old habits and develop new ones. You’ll discover brain-based ways to learn more efficiently, make better decisions, cultivate trust, form teams that are truly diverse, and improve both individual and group performance.


The Leading Brain translates cutting-edge developments in brain science into solid strategies, tips, and techniques for training yourself and your team to perform with increased efficiency, heightened satisfaction, and resounding success!

Do you Know?

  • What commonplace behavior has been shown to decrease your IQ by as much as 15 points?
  • When this happens, people typically take 50 percent longer to complete a task and make up to 50 percent more errors. When what happens?
  • Skipping one of these has been found to result in a 30 percent reduction in cognitive skill. Skipping one what?

Early Endorsements


The Leading Brain
Hans W. Hagemann

Hans W. Hagemann

Hans W. Hagemann, PhD, is Managing Partner and co-founder of the global management consultancy Munich Leadership Group (MLG) specializing in brain-based leadership. He supports leaders and teams who are facing complex business challenges. Hans is an expert in creating environments that foster high performance and ignite innovation.

He has accompanied outstanding leaders and teams through all kinds of challenges, led seminars, coaching sessions and multi-part workshops spanning over several years with a host of international corporations and their subsidiaries in more than 40 countries. Hans counts Allianz Global Investors, Bayer, BMW, EY, Expedia, Montblanc, Siemens, and ThyssenKrupp among his clients.

With his company MLG, he has conducted more than 5500 workshops on four continents in the past two decades. To support the fast-growing U.S. business, MLG opened an office in Palo Alto, California in 2010. The Shanghai, China, office followed in 2012.

Hans spends a lot of his time in the Silicon Valley studying and utilizing leadership and innovation success patterns. He is one of the founding members of the German Silicon Valley Innovators (GSVI), an institution that makes first-hand Silicon Valley experience accessible for opinion leaders in large corporations.

Through his work, Hans has become highly familiar with the real-life challenges business leaders face in a dynamic and highly competitive environment. His PhD in psychology and his studies in business administration as well as his extensive practical experience provide the necessary tools to help his clients overcome tough challenges.

Business leaders appreciate his approach, as the following feedback shows:

* The combination of business know-how and psychological expertise is exactly what companies need during difficult change processes. Our collaboration with Munich Leadership Group is very successful. I am impressed with what an important contribution Munich Leadership Group support makes to our day-to-day operations.
Dr. Frank Berlin, Head of Corporate Improvement Programs, HKM GmbH

* We worked with Munich Leadership Group to create a new basis for a significant portion of our executive development. We appreciate their outstanding conceptual expertise combined with the ability to implement leadership training in perfect alignment with our ideals.
Bettina Hoermann, Management Development, ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG

* Munich Leadership Group is our first choice for complex leadership development tasks. With their extensive know-how and, above all, their strong intuition, the consultants work with us to develop tailored and creative solutions that are pragmatic and successful.
Munich Leadership Group has an outstanding reputation at our company.
Ulrich Walker, PhD, CFO, Festo AG

Before founding the Munich Leadership Group in 1994, Hans worked as a management consultant at Graessle & Partner and as a marketing specialist at Procter & Gamble and at the Lintas Advertising Agency. He is married with three children.


Friederike Fabritius

Friederike Fabritius is the head of the Practice Group Neuroleadership at the Munich Leadership Group. As an executive coach and leadership specialist, she has extensive expertise working with top executives from multinational corporations such as Bayer, Audi, Montblanc, EY, and ThyssenKrupp. Many of her clients have described her seminars as “life-changing” and “highly applicable”. Friederike is also a sought-after keynote speaker and has addressed large audiences at corporate events at Siemens and Thyssen Krupp.

A neuroscientist by education, Friederike focuses on developing new methods and practices for leadership training and development based on solid scientific findings. She is also an expert in learning systems that draw on the brain’s inherent capabilities to acquire and retain new information effectively. Friederike herself has used these methods to learn six languages that she now speaks fluently. She has first-hand experience with all the modern brain research techniques to explore the human brain such as fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), EEG (Electroencephalography), CT (Computed Tomography), and TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation).

Friederike holds a M.S. in neuropsychology from the University of Milan-Bicocca  (“summa cum laude”) where she worked on language processing in the human brain. Friederike is a certified Co-Active Coach ® as well as a neurofeedback therapist.

Friederike started her career at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, conducting basic research in neurophysiology with renowned neuroscientist Wolf Singer who became her mentor and collaborator. During that time, she met many of the world’s most distinguished brain researchers such as Jonathan Schooler to discuss highly significant research topics including consciousness, decision making, neuroplasticity, mindfulness, intuition, creativity, empathy, and trust.

In 2007, she continued her career as a management consultant at McKinsey before joining the Munich Leadership Group in 2010 where she has since supported many clients in reaching their full potential and delivering peak performance at critical moments. Friederike is married with three children.

Read an interview

with the author Friederike Fabritius The Leading Brain


The Joys of Winning the Bronze Medal?

Olympic Games

Although you may think that the gold medalists at Sochi are on top of the world, scientific evidence tells a different story. An examination of subjective contentment of Olympic medal winners showed that athletes who win the bronze medal are actually happier than those who go home with the gold. How could this be? The answer lies with two unsung but essential motivations of the social brain: comparison and fairness. Instead of lamenting a third-place finish, bronze medalists have a tendency to compare themselves with the many other Olympic participants who did not receive a medal at all. As a result, they feel like winners. In the terms of contentment, athletes who win the silver come in last among Olympic medalists. Rather than celebrating their extraordinary performances, they focus instead on the fact that they may have narrowly missed winning a gold medal. Many leaders experience this same reaction when they receive a smaller bonus than they got the year before or a smaller bonus than their colleagues. The takeaway for business is that although the traditional incentive system for employees may make sense in terms of maximizing profit, it overlooks an important truth about how our brains operate. What is most important to people can’t be measured in dollars, Euros, or even Olympic medals. It’s how much they get (in rewards and compensation) in comparison to others.

February 22, 2014

The Madness of Multitasking


More and more people are finally getting the message that multitasking is a bad idea. But few people are aware of the brain science that explains why this widespread practice can be a productivity disaster.

Whenever you shift from one activity to another, say, writing a presentation to checking your e-mail, your brain goes through a four-step process. It makes no difference how quickly you shift your attention; the process is essentially the same. 1) To begin with, blood rushes to the anterior prefrontal cortex, which notifies the rest of your brain that you’re about to work on your presentation. 2) This all-points bulletin to your brain has two parts. First it searches for the neurons that you’ll need for a particular task and then it notifies those neurons that they’re needed. The search and notification is fast, but it still takes a few tenths of a second. 3) Then, when you decide to stop writing your presentation and check your e-mail, your brain must first disengage from the current task before moving on to the next. Strictly speaking, what we typically refer to as multitasking isn’t really multitasking. You aren’t actually doing two things at once. What you’re doing is more accurately called rapid sequential task switching. But as you’ll see, it’s not nearly rapid enough. 4) The final step is the same as the first, only this time the anterior prefrontal cortex, instead of telling your brain that you plan to write your presentation, will notify it that you intend to check e-mail. Once again, a few tenths of a second are required.[I]

The whole process of shifting from one task to another takes about half a second. That might not seem like much until you realize that look this this process is repeated every single time you shift from one task to another. Those half seconds begin to add up quickly. What’s more, each time you shift, to some extent you’re starting over. If multitasking were advertised like a soft drink, its slogan would probably be, “Now where was I?”[II]

If you remain unimpressed with the prospect of wasting time in half-second increments and aren’t all that concerned about constantly having to reorient yourself, perhaps some additional statistics will make a stronger impression.

  • People who are interrupted take an estimated 50 percent longer to complete a task and have been found to make up to 50 percent more errors.[III]
  • Constantly texting or checking e-mailing – a mainstay of multitaskers – has been shown to reduce your IQ by as much as 15 points.[IV]

Granted, some interruptions are unavoidable. But the thing about multitasking is that it’s interruption by choice not by chance. Why would you knowingly reduce your efficiency, deliberately increase your odds of making mistakes, and intentionally make yourself less intelligent?

Maybe now that you’ve read this, you no longer will.

[I] Medina, John. Brain Rules. Seattle: Pear Press, 2008. pp. 86-87.
[II] Medina, 87.
[III] Medina, 87
[IV] Rock, David. Your Brain At Work, New York: Harper Collins, 2005., p. 36

February 22, 2014

How ‘bout a hug?


Whereas smiles can cheer you up and a powerful pose can increase your feelings of confidence, a simple gesture can have an almost miraculous effect on calming you down. Giving or receiving a hug can trigger a huge release of oxytocin, which is popularly known as “the cuddle hormone.” In fact, physical contact in general releases oxytocin, which has been found in studies to be more effective than even soothing words to reduce levels of stress. In one study, husbands accompanied their wives to a stressful test. One group offered words of encouragement. The others simply massaged their wives’ shoulders. The latter group saw a decline in stress levels associated with testing. The former did not.

Granted, in some circles, hugging your business colleagues or massaging their shoulders may be frowned upon – and in some situations can even trigger a threat response from the recipient. (Just ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel who in 2006 received an unsolicited and clearly unwanted backrub from U.S. President George W. Bush!) Luckily, there are other more socially acceptable ways to get your oxytocin fix. Cuddling with a pet or a partner can release oxytocin and although its effects may not be quite as dramatic, so can simply shaking hands with a client or colleague.

Because our brain operates according to a negativity bias, our initial response when meeting someone new is to treat that person as a foe instead of a friend until we’re led to believe otherwise. You may not perceive this stranger as your enemy but your brain does. Like so many of our reactions, this one is evolutionarily based, deeply ingrained, and largely unconscious. This trips the threat circuit and stress ensues. Handshake to the rescue! This custom not only has a historical purpose — proof that you’re not holding a weapon – but also a neurological one, to reduce the threat response and generate a greater sense of connection by releasing a modest squirt of oxytocin.

February 18, 2014

The power of posture


A study done at two prestigious business schools found that posture has a greater effect than even a promotion on your overall behavior. Subjects who assumed a so-called “expansive posture” – spreading out by crossing their legs instead of keeping them together and by draping an arm over the back of a chair instead of placing their hands under their legs – were found to exhibit a greater sense of confidence and power than subjects who sat more submissively but had been granted a superior role.

The results were so decisive that they surprised even those who conducted the study. “Going into the research, we figured role would make a big difference,” said Li Huang, a PhD candidate at the Kellogg School of Management. “But shockingly, the effect of posture dominated the effect of role in each and every study.”

February 18, 2014

The Lazy Brain


If there is one single rule of neuroscience that should influence your understanding both of yourself and of your team, it is this. Your brain seeks to follow the most efficient and least resource-intensive route possible. In fact, although it could certainly be characterized as an awe-inspiring calculation machine, your brain could also be viewed as a bit of a couch potato. It consumes an inordinate amount of your body’s energy and tries to get away with doing as little work as possible.

The conscious stuff we do is undoubtedly the most advanced. The cortex and specifically the prefrontal cortex are what distinguish us from most of the animal world. Unfortunately, it is also what makes us inefficient as creatures. No one is advocating that we revert back to the thinking patterns and procedures of our ancestors. But when the opportunity arises to tap into the more powerful and energy efficient aspects of our brain, we should take advantage of it.

In three key and somewhat related types of thinking – intuitive decisionmaking, aha moments, and overall creative thinking – our prefrontal cortex takes a back seat to other regions of the brain and consciousness gives way to unconsciousness. When it comes to pleasing both your peak performing self as well as your lazy brain, unconscious thinking is often the best course of action.

February 18, 2014

Five simple things you can do to discourage creativity


Although these methods aren’t foolproof, if you’re dead set on squelching any creativity in your team, these simple rules should help to give you a competitive edge.

1. Dampen the overall mood.

Bad news, fingerpointing, or even a free-floating tirade should help to start things off on the wrong foot.

2. Create a lot of stress.

Luckily, bad moods and high stress often go hand in hand. But if your team seems grumpy but still strangely relaxed, turn up the heat by reminding them that failure isn’t an option and by setting an unreasonable deadline.

3. Follow a strict set of guidelines.

A straitjacket of structure should help to keep any pesky creative urges safely under wraps. Come up with a script and stick to it!

4. Keep everyone’s eye on the ball.

Clear the meeting room of anything that seems extraneous or fun and demand that people pay close attention at all times.

5. Encourage chaos and cross-talk.

Silence may be golden but not when your goal is to torpedo creative impulses. Call for lots of chatting and insist that everyone do his or her thinking out loud.

February 18, 2014

When Positive Turns Negative

Positive Negative

There are some wildly popular self-help approaches that still aren’t supported by evidence. The best known among these is the idea of positive affirmations.

When legendary boxer Muhammad Ali proudly told the world, “I’m the king! I’m the greatest! Ain’t I beautiful? I’m too pretty to be a fighter!” he was doing more than simply reminding his audience what they already knew: that in addition to being an extraordinary boxer (at the time, Feb. 1964, he had been unbeaten in 19 pro fights) he had an epic-sized ego. Now with the benefit of hindsight and neuroscience, we realize that he was also probably helping his performance in the ring. As it happens, the outcome of this particular bout, against heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, proved to be one of the greatest upsets in boxing history.

Ali’s pronouncement followed a proud tradition of positive affirmations. In a nutshell, positive affirmations suggest that by combining an optimistic attitude with a strong positive statement you can achieve almost any goal. Examples of positive affirmations include “I am a loveable person” or “I am thin and athletic.” The best known affirmation which originated with French psychologist ?mile Cou? and dates back to the 19th century is “Every day in every way, I am getting better and better.”

The problem is that for every Muhammad Ali who used positive affirmations to help him succeed there are tens of thousands of needy and well-intentioned individuals for whom these affirmations actually make things worse! Empirical data show that these quick-fix attempts to re-direct your life only work if you already have a healthy self-esteem.In fact, when self-affirmations were used in a stressful testing situation, they actually worked against subjects who had low self-esteem and only helped those who already possessed a positive self-image. Totally the opposite of what you might expect. After all, you would think that people with a high self-opinion wouldn’t need to remind themselves, while those who are insecure could benefit from a little pep talk, even when they themselves are serving as both coach and player.

January 19, 2014

For US media inquiries, please contact our publicist Keely Platte, Penguin Random House at

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