Your Brain on Leadership? Assess Yourself!

Published by lisaj February 27th, 2009 in Applying NLP Now,

I just read a great article “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership” from the September 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review.  It details fascinating new research by Daniel Goleman of “emotional intelligence” (EQ) fame.

The emerging field of social neuroscience — the study of what happens in the brain while people interact — will be familiar to any of you with NLP training. It’s the scientific proof of what we’ve been doing in this field all along. It talks about how two major characteristics of leaders — empathy and becoming attuned to others’ moods — affect BOTH their brain chemistry and that of their followers: “Individual minds becoming, in a sense, fused into a single system.”  Goleman and Boyatzis have detailed what happens in the brain chemistry during rapport, matching, mirroring, pacing and leading.

Regarding the influence leaders can have through their positional power, research has now proven their emotions and actions create a “copycat” impact on others, often without realizing it. A leader can literally spread an epidemic of “morale” (good or bad) in a matter of minutes — and now science can measure it.

You don’t have to look far to observe the phenomenon:

  • The IT project that has failed multiple times. Even when everyone really wants it to succeed, people end up scratching their heads wondering “What happened?” yet again.
  • The team who consistently delivers on its promises: They have that “special magic” that can’t be easily traced. Great performance is just “in the air.”
  • The leader with the big, bold, exciting vision that never “catches fire” among his people. He communicates daily in blustery fashion about “meeting the numbers,” notices people’s eyes glaze over, and wonders why they don’t share his passion.
  • An organization can’t get out of the trap of its outdated culture. Regardless of how many new people it hires, within weeks or months they repeat unconscious behaviors and systems over and over, even while the people doing it realize they are not effective. Brave souls who try to “rock the boat”  often either become “native” to the existing culture or end up being ejected from it.

As if we needed the proof — the punchline of the article detailed the profound differences leaders with high versus low social intelligence have created in measurable business performance.

To protect their organizations against “morale flu,” leaders can have a big impact simply by making small changes in how they show up and communicate. Here’s a snapshot of the best “IQ test” of the 21st century:

Assess Yourself

Goleman and Boyatzis worked with colleagues at Hay Group (a HR consulting and research firm), to define 7 characteristics of “social intelligence” – behaviors of top-performing leaders at hundreds of corporations over two decades.

1) Empathy

Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?

Are you sensitive to others’ needs?

2) Attunement

Do you listen attentively and think about how others’ feel?

Are you attuned to others’ moods?

3) Organizational Awareness

Do you appreciate the culture and values of the group or organization?

Do you understand social networks and know their unspoken norms?

4) Influence

Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interests?

Do you get support from key people?

5) Developing others

Do you coach and mentor others with compassion and personally invest time and energy in mentoring?

Do you provide feedback that people find helpful for their professional development?

6) Inspiration

Do you articulate a compelling vision, build group rpide, and foster a positive emotional tone?

Do you lead by bringing out the best in people?

7) Teamwork

Do you solicit input from everyone on the team?

Do you support all team members and encourage cooperation?

I suggest you pick one or two of these areas to start improving today. The beauty of NLP is that it provides a simple, powerful, and user-friendly methodology to do that — re-coding your communication software in a way that helps you effortlessly and easily make change work better.

In an age where leadership is more fragile, precarious and important than ever, seems we can all use an edge.


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