Leadership tips for 2023

Tuesday, 02 May 2023


    Leadership has changed since the pandemic and board members and senior leaders need to know how to navigate the new landscape, according to Dr David Rock, author and co-founder and CEO of the NeuroLeadership Institute. Here in this video, he outlines how brain research can help board members to communicate better with each other and with their organisations.

    Using brain science principles can be a valuable way for leaders to communicate better, but it can also be used companywide to inform recruiting and all operational functions, says Dr Rock.

    One company which uses neuroscience extensively is Microsoft. “When Satya Nadella started as the CEO about eight years ago, he was very public about having what he calls a growth mindset and a learner's mindset,” says Rock.

    “He was intrinsically passionate about self-awareness and being kind of more thoughtful and interested in the brain. We ended up partnering with them quite early and built their whole approach to leadership development. We built a very simple, sticky framework that eight years later is still there. It's leaders create clarity, generate energy and deliver success.”

    Neuroscience then became the overarching principle to inform hiring and promotion and feedback and performance. “So Microsoft uses all our research in all levels of people development to inform them in how to be more effective. And it's really woven into the fabric of everything that they do.”

    Dr David Rock NeuroLeadership10;29

    Brain science can also be used in many different ways to improve communication in the boardroom and with staff members and messaging overall, says Dr Rock.

    In the boardroom, neuroscience can especially help with minimising threat responses or anxiety in other people and to minimise biases. The institute has identified five different types of bias – similarity, experience, expedience, distance and safety.

    Two areas are of particular importance. “Turning down how much kind of anxiety you create, which is often accidental. The second area is really minimising biases that could creep in. So we found those are two really valuable areas where neuroscience can contribute.”

    It’s crucial to dial down anxiety, because people don’t think clearly when stressed. “They make poor decisions and understanding the brain helps you predict ahead of time what might upset people and how you might balance that out.

    “It's actually our colleague from NASA who said, you know, we can predict what will happen with a tonne of metal a hundred million miles away in a decade. But we don't know what's going to happen in a meeting tomorrow.

    In terms of bias, the institute has simplified the analysis into five different types. “We were able to organise the 100 plus biases into just five categories, based on how the brain actually creates them. It turns out to be incredibly helpful for a board member or senior leader, because you can now call out in real time when you're seeing a bias without having to remember 100 biases.”

    It has also become more important since the pandemic for leaders to be more careful about messaging as people are more cognitively taxed and overloaded. Messaging must be kept simple, says Dr Rock.

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