Leadership, as do people, evolves. Seeing through the eye of the leader has taken on a whole new level of meaning in light of recent advances in cognitive neuroscience. When a leader realizes that how she or he perceives their self, their team members and the organization powerfully matters to outcomes, there is potentially even more motivation to bring clarity to their vision. I was reading an article written by professor Eric Kandel, a neuroscientist at Columbia University that appeared in the NY Times weekend edition for April 13, 2013, What the Brain Can Tell Us About Art. A noteworthy comment was made regarding creativity:
“…This insight implied that the brain is a crativity machine, which obtains incomplete information from the outside world and completes it.” (Assigns the meaning)
At the end of the article, Dr. Kandel makes an interesting comment:
“All of which goes to show that the real “eye” of the beholder is the brain itself”
Truly. How we see reality is subjective and then we take the actions to prove ourselves, “right”. When a leader sees him or herself with blind spots, they can under perform unnecessarily or even worse, project their low expectations onto those around them and also contribute to a reduction of the effectiveness of their team.
When a leader’s expectations of success are limited, it impacts the performance of the whole team. You underestimate the power of the mind to produce “self-fulfilling prophecy” to your own peril. How do we begin to consciously become the Creative Directors of the performance of our teams and organizations?
Self-awareness helps us to wake up to aspects that are already present within us – we just don’t see it. The blind spots of our society’s conditioning over time can cause us to focus on what is allegedly, ‘wrong with us’. Sure, we all have shortcomings that challenge us to grow.
These behaviors are not ‘who we are’. They are ‘how we act’. We simply get it confused with our ‘Being’. We ‘do’ things that don’t serve our highest good nor others, yet we can change our behavior. And, we can do it without creating so much self-recrimination and guilt. In fact, it is easier to change our behavior when we cut the story line that ‘something is wrong with us’. This perception creates resistance to behavioral change as we run away from the conversation to change instead of facing it courageously and compassionately head on.
I saw the movie, The Great and Powerful Oz the other day. Oz had big dreams and lots of self-sabotaging behaviors – like lack of integrity, selfishness without regard for others and reactive, non-reflective thinking. Yet, ‘Goodness’ lived within him and given the right inspiration, he did tap into a part of himself that desired to help others and not simply be run by his own greed and fear. Granted, he still needed to develop more honesty by the end of the movie.
This journey of tapping our true potential and living up to our lofty ideas happens in stages. Our habits evolve easier with self-awareness and the desire to tap the courage of our heart. To do this easier, we need to understand how to, ‘optimally operate’ our amazing brain to that we can change with greater ease.
Currently we wire our brain more often than not, to:0
Managing change effectively involves managing mindset. Where your mind is set determines if change is scary and ‘hard’ or exciting and ‘easier’. I don’t want to imply that change will be without discomfort but it doesn’t have to be down right painful.
How you see it – perception – matters. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is a pervasive perception that drive us into our ‘survival brain’. I don’t think there is anything primitive about our amazing brain, yet there are evolutionary levels of engagement that impact our behaviors in everyday life.
I look at the brain in terms of its three evolutionary levels (See image). Level 1 and 2 is in a nutshell all about our survival instinct and our mammalian need for security, love and self-esteem. Neuroscience has shown that ‘perception is reality’ and truly reality is not, ‘objective’.
‘Reality is an illusion; albeit a very persistent one’ ~Albert Einstein
It’s persistent because generally speaking, most people are stuck in Level 1 and 2 mind. It’s this mindset of how we see, ‘survival of the fittest’ that keeps us stuck in Level 1 and 2 mind of our brain. The way to thrive is to connect with your ‘thrival’ brain, which is what I like to call it. This Level 3 area, called the neo-cortex is our ‘executive functioning’ level of brain of self-awareness, higher decision-making, confidence, imagination/innovation, empathy and spiritual purpose and connection.
Level 3 brain can transcend the survival brain fears – FEAR which is ‘Fictitious Evidence Affecting Reality’ – which keeps our storytelling brain stuck on fight/flight/freeze response. It can actually break the loop of deer-in-the-headlight reactions from the Level 1 and 2 brain/mind. This belief in competition at all costs, in order to survive becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Personal growth is a challenge for many people because we over identify our sense of self with our behavior. While behavior may illustrate ‘how you think’ or ‘how you see’ life at this moment, really our attitudes and beliefs can and do change over time. Yet, it’s because of this narrow way of ‘seeing our self’ that we resist personal growth and development.
The inference of society is generally that personal growth means you need ‘fixing’. Paradoxically, this resistance keeps us stuck where we are. Really we are all always only growing and reaching our true potential – we don’t need, ‘fixing’.
We think that if we fight our habits, will power our self through them or focus on ‘the problem’ hard enough that we will somehow, ‘overcome’ it. Actually, this is a big distraction. You are focusing on ‘what is’, and feeling bad about it instead of focusing on where you’d rather be, with a sense of hope and gratitude.
Your brain is working by focus of attention – you are sending a signal of, ‘I want that’ when you focus on something. So, do you want more of the same, or do you want to expand the vision for your life? Can you see what you want to experience, what you want to be, do or have in your mind’s eye – now?
See the change that you want to be in the world – Now.
Does this sound slightly familiar? Perhaps you are thinking about what Gandhi once said:
‘Be the change that you want to see in the world’
Leadership and developing emotional intelligence is really ‘personal growth and development’. It’s important to distinguish this as if leaders want to become more empathetic, engaging and inspiring, we need to recognize that we need to change our self first. One reason why this feels so threatening and challenging is that society applies the connotation that personal growth means, ‘fixing your self’. This perception stops most people in their tracks when it comes to embracing personal growth and development. For example, if you were in a group setting and I asked one of the following questions:
1. How many people need to fix themselves so they can become better leaders?
2. How many people need to learn and grow in order to reach more of their true potential?
Now, notice how you feel about raising your hand to number one. How do you feel raising your hand to number two? From an outcome perspective both roads lead to ‘behavioral change’. Which one do you think would be easier to get people to buy into?
Why is this? Why do we resist admitting we need behavioral change?
Productivity and performance matter and underneath this is how we think. We load up on ‘what to do?’; the deeper question is ‘how do we think about it?’. If we think that work and life are ‘hard’ and that to be successful we have to feel ‘pressure or stress’, we are likely to dampen our level of productivity and performance. It takes more energy to push against ‘hard’ than to enjoy ‘easy’. This is about our perception – a subjective matter. You see it is not so much as what we do, as much as it is the mindset we hold about what we do and how we focus our brain as we do it.
We are using our brain of course. Yet, we talk more about optimizing our website, our keywords or our bank accounts than we do about optimally using our amazing Inner Brain Technology. Of course, this is typically due to lack of knowledge. Talk about ‘innovation’, this is a new frontier. It is an answer to issues such as bad bosses, team disengagement and stagnant culture – and no I’m not only a ‘dreamer’.
While having a clear intention and an expansion of vision – a dream – is the path to real innovation, I also realize that people need to ‘want’ to change. When we understand how to more easily recognize and change our derailing behavior, we can play the game of life at a whole different – and easier – level.
I would suggest that the challenges of a four-generation workforce, rapid change, need to innovate quickly and 70% employee disengagement rates are reasons to incentivize change. Still, this is a tall order. How are we going to do all of this while under unprecedented stress and uncertainty? Obviously, we need to be be open to new answers, as what we are currently doing – isn’t working.
Fortunately, even being able to change our thinking about what is possible is included in this idea of optimally operating our brain’s processing system. We can expand our vision for possibility as we learn how to stop constricting our potential. We currently use our brain to limit our performance instead of using it to help us be more effective. I use the metaphor of technology as we have modeled technology after our brain without even realizing it consciously.
What are some of the things we currently do to sabotage our brain’s efficiency?
Leaders, and people in general, are searching for new answers. New answers – innovation – requires an open mind. I hear and read much about innovation. Much is being said about ‘cutting edge’ and ‘embracing change’ and leaders leading…and still many people cling to what they, ‘know’.
How do you ‘know’ something?
Did you know that our brain is remarkable at creating ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’? Also, many of the ‘social norms’ and ways of thinking had to start somewhere in time. Perhaps they served groups and the social structure at one time, but the environment changes. The difference is that now, the environment is changing a lot faster than only a decade ago.
Overwhelm has the potential to keep increasing while at the same time, we are all expected to perform at higher and higher levels. How will we do this if what we already, ‘know’ is all there is? The answer is obvious to me – we need to ‘know’ some new things and that only happens by being willing and then taking action.
For many, being willing is actually the challenge. Our ways of thinking have commonly caused many of us to ‘dumb down’ our Creator given magnificence as human beings. Each and every human being has some gift or talent that is unique in their own unique way of expressing. Each person has a potential that could, not only lead him or her to more achievement, peace, joy and confidence, but it can be used to serve the world and make it a better place.
Whether it is leadership performance at the office or within your social service or your home, we all need to grow and evolve in order to uncover the gold that is already within us. It’s time to stop, ‘Looking for love in all the wrong place’ and find it within so that we can bring it out to shine to the world. I believe it is arrogant and crude to consider our self as ‘defective’ or broken.
Humility is accepting and loving our self with compassion, cultivating our purpose and gifts, not beating our self up. Instead of seeing our limitations as something shameful or ugly, we can retrain our brain – literally – to see with new ‘mind’s eyes’. You see perception is changeable and it creates your ‘reality’.0
Having a neuroscience background and having owned and operated a surgical and medical practice for many years prepared me for the new next level expression of my life purpose – to restore vision. It’s obvious how an eye surgeon restores vision. Then there’s expanding the vision for one’s life – that’s where my gift is focused now. Helping people to be themselves ‘Magnificently’ by closing the gap between their own intellect and heart is the new vision I have. Each and everyone of us is unique and can make our own unique impact – if we learn to get out of our own way.
I needed to be able to diagnose brain tumors and neurologic disease everyday I went to the office. At the same time I needed to hone my leadership skills if I wanted to have engaged, happy employees and deliver excellent customer service. Little did I realize years ago, just how visionary my intentions were to combine the two. While I obviously had the intellect to become an eye surgeon, over the years, decisions I made during my journey had caused me to close my heart down, except when working directly with my patients. From my teen years forward, I began a decent into the valley of over valuing the intellect part of my mind and disowning the emotional aspects of my mind.
While I was quite good at repressing my feelings, I began about 20 years ago to recognize the ‘repression’ was really ‘denial’. If you are alive, you have a heart and you have feelings. Heart is associated with feelings, the right-brain – and Wisdom. Yet this wisdom is made conscious to our ‘ego’ through the portal of our intellect if we are to communicate it to others. It was when I began to listen to the Wisdom of my heart that I began the search for how to integrate my intellect with the heart – The Ultimate Power Couple.
Initially, because it was during the 1990’s that I made my decision to recover from denying my feelings, I didn’t have any science to support me. The science and business community derided anything that had to do with intuition or feelings. Admittedly, I was terrified of feeling anything, really.
A brilliant example of collaborative leadership in action is illustrated in an article I read in yesterday’s Sunday Business Section of the Chicago Tribune. It is entitled, “Obama Tech Team Ventures Forward”. “Collaborative Leadership Structure” is an innovation to the traditional hierarchical structure. It is not a style of consensus, yet it has far greater flexibility than the outdated, ‘command-control’ style of leadership commonly seen within hierarchical cultures.
With collaborative structure, there are leaders within the team with traditional titles, like campaign chief technology officer or chief innovation and integration officer – yet there is space for the team members to participate in the process and embrace accountability.
The article focused on the ability of the team to adapt to real-time unexpected situations – like Hurricane Sandy. Within 24 hours, they were able to move their base from the east coast to the west coast – a seemingly impossible task at first glance. Also, detailed attention was given to the user (customer) experience that made for a highly successful and effective campaign outcome. What were some of the things that they did to accomplish this?
Mindset is like a thermostat. Where your mind is set, like a thermostat. The setting holds the “temperature” – temperament as in mindset – in place. Mindset settings have two basic ingredients – Thoughts and Feelings. “Belief” is formed from emotionalized thought that has an “assigned” meaning. Brain research shows that we are assigning the meaning to what happens to us – it is not “objective” in general. Your perception of life is different from mine.
Mindset is not about the “Intellect” alone. In fact, it is emotion/feelings that act as the glue that seals in a “belief. Over the past week or so, I had a series of conversations or I’ve heard others talk about the heart and the importance of the role of the heart in guiding our choices. On a few of these occasions I heard, “The heart is always right, so I should/you should listen to your heart and how you feel”. Of course, I’ve also heard, “Ignore your feelings, leave them at home – logic and the rational mind is all that matters”….as in forget the “touchy feely” stuff. Both are extremes – let me explain.
Well, I’ve been thinking about this over the years and as I’ve become more conscious of how to consciously engage my “Neo-cortex”, feelings, intuition and my “Still Small Voice” – The source of the Wise Heart more…and at the same time retrain my brain’s perception about old cellular feelings, I’ve come to experience the difference between the, “(Wise) Heart” and “Feelings”.
This is subtle but very important. After the 150th time of reacting to my “feelings” that said to do something…and finding the choice to be less than stellar later, I slowed down enough to pay attention to something very important. There is a difference between “Heart” that is intuitive and comes from a place of clarity, spirit and “Knowing” – and “feelings”.
To be clear – I’m making a distinction here between, “Heart” and feelings.0