The Leading Brain

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A quiet revolution is occurring in the art of successful leadership. Thanks to groundbreaking discoveries in the field of cognitive neuroscience, we now have an unprecedented understanding of how the brain behaves in a variety of workplace scenarios. The results have been both astounding and somewhat sobering as we learn which tried-and-true leadership methods are supported by data and which are demonstrably proven to be ineffective. At the same time, these cognitive insights provide exciting new possibilities for reaching our peak performance, for actually changing our brains, and for building the dream teams that will be essential for successful businesses in our bold new neuroscientific century. This book looks at the changing business world from a neuroscientific perspective. It shows business leaders how to avoid expensive pitfalls and to excel using the new findings and corresponding hands-on strategies.


Most of us dream of being able to turn on and off our peak productivity as easily as flipping a light switch. Yet few of us come even close. Thanks to developments in brain science, we may finally have the power to do so. We can use neuroscientific insights to increase our chances of getting "in the zone," to better regulate our emotions, and to stay focused longer on the task at hand.


It's the kind of tantalizing puzzle that leaves executives restless and lying awake well into the wee hours of the morning. How can you most effectively get your employees to work consistently at their peak? What is it that enables people to rise to the occasion at some times but not at others? Cutting-edge neuroscience has the answer.


"Grit your teeth," "tough it out," or "just suck it up." Many of us spend an alarming amount of our day - especially in the workplace - defiantly attempting to hold back negative emotions, a strategy that is not only ineffective, but can actually make matters worse. The solution to emotional regulation is to adopt a set of proven protective strategies and to use Cognitive Jujitsu, which, like the martial art it was named for, redirects the strength of your opposition so it works in your favor.


The same amount of light that barely warms a biscuit can be used to burn a hole through a brick wall. In business, as in light, focus can make a dramatic difference. Unfortunately, far too much time and energy are wasted when work is lukewarm instead of laser-sharp. What's more, our curious addiction to multitasking only makes matters worse. This chapter supplies some solid brain-based strategies for improving your focus.


Strange as it may sound, you aren't necessarily stuck with the brain you were born with. Using what psychologists call neuroplasticity, you can actually rewire your brain by developing good habits and eliminating bad ones, by using the power of your unconscious for faster, more effective decision- making, and by taking advantage of this lifelong capacity for change to make old information easier to remember and new information easier to acquire.


Are we all just going crazy? Insanity is famously described as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Every January 1, many of us dutifully establish our noble New Year's Resolutions. And yet every year, more than 90 percent of those well-meaning resolutions fail. For the vast majority of people who try to kick old habits or develop new ones, something obviously isn't working. It's time for a new approach. This chapter offers you pragmatic, successful strategies for habit change, based on the newest insights from neuroscience and tested in a business context.


Buy or sell? Consolidate or diversify? Turn left or turn right? Every day we're bombarded by a dizzying array of choices, both crucial and inconsequential. The ability to make decisions quickly and effectively is what separates a good leader from a mediocre one. In this chapter we show you how to vastly improve your decision-making abilities. You'll learn what the latest in brain science tells us about when it's best to go with your gut and when it's better to do some fact-finding first. You'll also discover the crucial and surprising role the unconscious plays in either scenario. In fact, your unconscious may be the most powerful and underappreciated part of your brain. It not only drives how you make decisions, but also how you solve problems and take creative approaches.


Given the choice, would you rather drown or starve? Some companies recognize the importance of continuous learning and elect to swamp their staffs under a deluge of data, while others stubbornly ignore the need to keep up with emerging technologies and developments, condemning their businesses to a slow and painful death. Few business realities are clearer: if you want to be able to survive, you need to keep learning. Ignoring doesn't work, and neither does information overload. Luckily, there is another, winning way. This chapter shows you how manage knowledge more effectively and also how to make sure that you get your message across to the people who are working with you.


With the best teams, the work can sometimes seem almost effortless. Although the members have different strengths and roles, the team becomes a cohesive force that not only meets its objectives with aplomb but leaves everyone feeling a deeply rewarding sense of empowerment and accomplishment. The secret to building a dream team is to thrive on the diversity of your members, to cultivate a strong environment of trust and common purpose, and to create an atmosphere where everyone feels motivated, rewarded, and satisfied.


Everybody seems to be talking about diversity these days. But do most of us really know what it means? When we talk about diversity, we don't necessarily mean differences in race, age, gender, or culture. After all, a team can look like the United Nations and yet still have a disappointingly narrow and uniform approach to problems and projects. Insights from neuroscience have given us a fresh new understanding of what it makes people different from each other and how leaders can create productive teams that are truly diverse.


Why do some teams seem to click while others go clunk? What is it that motivates certain groups to perform at their peak while others simply mark time? The tie that binds successful teams is trust. Without trust, there is little chance of fruitful collaboration. Yet many leaders who seek to draw their team members together are unwittingly pushing them apart by creating or perpetuating a climate of suspicion and mistrust. This chapter provides the keys for encouraging an environment in which people truly want to work together.


Which century is your company living in? When it comes to developing successful teams, many of the ideas that businesses still stubbornly cling to are about as obsolete as the fax machine. Cutting-edge cognitive science has dramatically changed the way we encourage collaboration, reward excellence, and create conditions that make the most out of everyone's brainpower. To realize the team of the future, leaders need to build on members' existing strengths, keep them happy, and develop a framework that will encourage their highest group performance and satisfaction.


The tools and technologies that have led to the scientific insights that underlie many of the tips and techniques in this book are continually improving. Practically every month brings new advancements, refinements, and discoveries that provide us with an even greater understanding and appreciation of how the brain works. At the same time, as these neuroscientific theories are increasingly put into business practice we gain a stronger sense of the impact and the scope of these exciting advancements. As evidence mounts for how brain-based leadership can improve individual performance and learning and foster teams that work harmoniously and efficiently, it remains to be seen just how far The Leading Brain can extend in pursuit of a more productive and rewarding world!

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