Part 8: Brain-Friendly Leadership Tips

As we bring this change and emotions series to a close, I would like to share 3 final brain-friendly leadership tips. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me!

7. Co-create as much as possible.

Co-creation is possible when people get autonomy within a clear framework (a defined direction and playing field). This is crucial for the emotional brain. A framework offers structure, which will lead to initiative. Without a framework the monkey becomes afraid to explore and to take the initiative.

On the other hand, when a feeling of safety is established people will feel empowered to act autonomously and to find their own approaches and solutions. A clear framework provides territory, position, and respect, all crucial for the crocodile and the monkey. 

8. Don’t put the monkey or the crocodile in a cage!

Plan ahead and create a chain of dialogue sessions where people can express their feelings and concerns and responses/solutions to these can be facilitated. The core of these sessions is not only to allow expression but also to coach people to a high level of maturity in handling change.

All management, top management included, must be part of this dialogue. The crocodile and the monkey need to be guided and reassured by their alpha leaders. This cannot be achieved by one or two PowerPoint presentations, but only by continuous involvement and dialogue. 

9. Invest in leadership development.

Your leaders are the nervous system of your organization. They will get people on board emotionally or they will lose them. Remember the saying:

People don’t quit an organization, they quit a boss.

When taking into account how our brains function it is essential to develop the following insights and skills: 

  • Knowledge of and insight into the dynamics of the brain: Being strongly aware of the needs of the different parts of the brain will result in more effective communication and will enable you to get people on board with change more quickly. 
  • Self -awareness and self -knowledge: Leaders who know themselves. Leaders who understand their own emotions, values, norms and convictions and how these drive their behaviour can create an engaging emotional culture. 
  • Skills in leading with emotional intelligence: Learning how to communicate with all parts of the human brain. If more than 20-30% of your leaders don’t show the right attitude and behaviour as explained in the emotion graph your change is likely to fail.  
  • Leadership is power and presence: Like it or not, I am convinced that a leader needs a sound amount of power. Not power based on hierarchical position but power based on presence. As I’ve said, sometimes other monkeys and crocodiles need your crocodile and monkey to be dominant and define what is and isn’t acceptable