Advances in neuroscience are changing the landscape of leadership development. What could this mean for you?

“Neuroscience is giving us insight into how people respond to stress, learn and remember, manage emotions, behave in the moment, and build long-term resiliency,” says CCL Research Director Marian Ruderman.

Ruderman and senior faculty member Carol Connolly are leading CCL’s efforts to apply advances in neuroscience to leadership development. In addition to understanding relevant science, Ruderman and Connolly are building relationships and drawing on ideas from experts in positive psychology, mindfulness and meditation and various technology fields. Neuroscience and its implications for leaders is one of the “big ideas” featured in CCL’s 2012 Annual Report.

It’s early days for the merging fields of leadership and neuroscience, but CCL believes that this work will enhance and accelerate leadership development.

The most immediate application of neuroscience to CCL’s work is the idea of self-regulation. If you can have greater control of your nervous system, you can control your responses. This can help in all sorts of leadership activities and is especially valuable in delicate or difficult situations. Self-regulation can be a powerful underpinning for anyone who wants to be more effective in leadership roles.

Not too far in the future, biofeedback devices or special sensors could provide you with real-time physiological assessment as you go about your day. You could get data to help you see patterns, gain awareness and choose your responses — rather than defaulting to an automatic reaction.

Meanwhile, getting brain science to matter to managers and executives requires a practical approach. “Innovative technologies will make a difference in the future, but leaders need strategies for now,” Connolly notes.

Annual Report

“When we talk with leaders about this today, we start with their challenges,” she continues. “We ask, what’s the hardest thing you’ve got to be doing right now? We show them why better brain function will help them deal with what is on their plate. Then they can pick just one or two things to better manage their stress and boost their cognitive health.”

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