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May 2015

The Changing Science of Leadership

New advances in the field of social neuroscience are fundamentally reshaping perspectives on the best way to lead and manage the performance of others. That's the main message Scott Blanchard will be sharing in his presentation at the annual conference of the Association for Talent Development (ATD) in Orlando, Florida later this month. The concurrent session is entitled Things About Leadership We Never Would Have Said Three Years Ago.

As Blanchard shares, "The advent of the functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is giving us a peek into the workings of the brain, and the new science of motivation is helping us better understand what engages people. These developments, combined with ongoing research into well-being, are all beginning to converge on a new holistic model for leading others effectively.

"For the past fifty years we have used a left brain/right brain model to explain the way our brains work. While that's been helpful, functional MRIs have vastly improved our ability to see which parts of the brain light up in different situations. The new focus is on the prefrontal cortex. It is the seat of judgment, emotional regulation, and executive functioning."

According to Blanchard, the prefrontal cortex is also a "resource hog." It uses a large share of the body's glucose and oxygen and is very sensitive to external factors like sleep, diet, and stress.

Blanchard is especially interested in the way this area of the brain is affected by different types of leadership.

"Stress causes the release of cortisol and adrenaline, which shuts down the brain's higher level thinking abilities," says Blanchard. "People revert to a more basic fight, flight, or freeze mode. That's not the kind of thinking that leads to innovation, creativity, and collaboration.

Explore the May 2015 Issue of Ignite!


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