Neuroscience, Leadership and 7 Challenges for DM Leaders

Leaders do make a difference. Maybe the explanation can be found in neuroscience. Over the years I’ve worked with many different leadership styles, and it’s apparent that some are more effective than others. Let’s take a look at the good and the, well, not-so-good leadership I’ve observed from direct marketing leaders, along with seven challenges that can deliver more results.

Where Neuroscience and Leadership Meet

There are two points of reference for this column. First, a column in Inc. Magazine titled “The Neuroscience That’s Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders.” The article summarizes concepts from “Neuroscience for Leaders,” a new book by Dr. Nikolaos Dimitriadis and Dr. Alexandros Psychogios. A few highlights that reveals the importance of emotion in leadership:

  • There is a neuroscience to leadership, one that allows managers to move from “good” to “great” by retraining our thought patterns, nurturing emotions and training yourself to respond with empathy.
  • The brain is primarily “a social organ,” and a great leader views the role as one of empathy.
  • The emotional brain is crucial for guiding our decisions and behaviors, and it is always on duty.
  • Empathy is talked about in companies but rarely practiced in management. Managers desire to lead with more emotion, but scanning through spreadsheets and charts all day, responding to stress by becoming more analytical, and overemphasizing certain emotions — such as happiness or fear of failure — make leaders only partially effective.

In other words, great leaders effectively blend the metaphorical left brain (logic and analytics) and right brain (creativity and emotion).

The reference about moving from “good” to “great” reminds me, of course, of the classic book, “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins. Even though it was released a few years ago, it’s still relevant. Every company leader, and aspiring leader who wants to take a business to a higher level should read it.

Here are a few nuggets from “Good to Great” about the most advanced “Level 5” leaders for taking an organization from just “good” to “great”:

  • Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. Their ambition is for the institution, not themselves.
  • Level 5 leaders display a compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated.
  • Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce sustained results.

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