by Rebecca Winter as posted on Linkedin
I recently had the pleasure of supporting an event that was attended by an amazing and diverse group of Leaders. During an interactive session, I heard the often repeated phrase among corporate leaders from one of the participants: “When I make decisions, I try to be logical. I like to leave emotion out of it”.
Did you know that it’s not possible to ‘leave emotion out’ of anything?
That’s right! Neuroscience has exploded the notion that the best decisions are purely rational processes. We now know that decision-making is largely governed by emotion, and as such – the wisest leaders will update their world view. Not only is emotion always involved – science has also shown, that intuition is just as important and can even be superior to logic under the right conditions. Logic, on its own, may lead to incredibly flawed decisions. So, instead of trying to excise emotion - you would do well to strive to understand how best to master this new terrain and use the current body of scientific knowledge to your advantage. This will ensure you become the best Leader that you can be.
So where do you start, you ask me? Let’s start with some basic info.
Did you know that the brain in your head is not your only brain? Did you know that science has acknowledged the existence of at least three ‘brains’? Each person has a completely functioning complex, adaptive neural network in their Head (Cephalic Brain), in their Heart (Cardiac Brain), and in their Gut (Enteric Brain). These three ‘brains’ do important things that impact your thinking and your behavior. They are co-enervated by the Vagus nerve and information passes between and is shared by these ‘brains’. Each individual is taking in vast bits of information via their unconscious mind every second of every day – these varying neural networks will each have accessed different bits, processed them according to the prime functions and competencies of that neural network, and as such – each brain has a contribution to any given decision making challenge. It’s when these ‘brains’ are all functioning optimally and in coherence - and - when you actually attend to the ‘knowing’ that they provide, that you get the most transformational, generative, and simply accurate decision making.
Sound Crazy? It gets even more interesting. Neurologically speaking, evidence shows that the most powerful sequence to integrate the information processing of these three brains (if you want the best results as a leader) is: Cardiac Brain (Heart) out in front, followed by the Cephalic Brain (Head), and then supported by the Enteric Brain (Gut).
So, let’s focus on your Heart first.
It’s really, really critical that this brain is engaged. I’m not saying you have to “be emotional”. But one of the prime functions of this brain is processing what’s important to you and your priorities (and its relationship to the emotional strength of your aspirations, dreams, desires, etc.) We do our best work when we want to do it, when we believe it is truly important, and when it aligns to our values. Why would you not appeal to someone’s sense of purpose to get the most out of their capabilities? You need the right amount of emotionally driven energy to ensure that people prioritize and act appropriately amidst competing demands. Anything less is just plain uninspiring and we all want to be inspired.
Let’s focus on your Head next:
This one is easy for you and for most leaders, as the Cephalic brain is the site of thinking, cognitive perception, and meaning making. And what gets this brain functionally optimally? When you have a fantastic and motivating reason to show up fully and commit 100% - e.g. when your heart is in the game first. At that point, your head brain is on fire and able to dream up options and possibilities that support this vision that is shaped by the heart brain. This process of creativity becomes fully boot-strapped by your Purpose and then innovation and ideation become easy when you don’t “take emotion out of it”.
Finally, let’s close on a conversation with your Gut Brain:
This brain absolutely has to be engaged to get the nitty gritty work done. Evidence demonstrates that it is the seat of core-identity, self-preservation, and - very important for you and the team you lead - Motivation. When are you most deeply motivated? As we said – when you truly are inspired by your task, your creativity and idea making are engaged in service of that mission, which then boot straps your courage and motivation appropriately in service of making your desired impact.
So dear Leader, let’s not leave emotion out of it! Let’s seek to understand the complete wisdom of the body and all ways of ‘knowing’. Let’s integrate that information effectively and allow your brains to work together powerfully – for an even better, even more coherent and wiser YOU.