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Friday, July 24, 2009

Neuroscience and popular culture: "Wired" business bumph on leadership

A friend alerts me to this:
His work suggests that the behavioural and emotional qualities of leadership can be traced to neurological activity in identified regions of the brain. He is working on linking this activity with the qualities that best benefit those at the top of a company to create training techniques that develop effective leadership abilities.

Prof Balthazard was drawn to the work of neuroscientist Jeffrey Fannin, a psychologist and executive director of the Center for Cognitive Enhancement, a clinic near ASU’s campus. Dr Fannin scanned patients’ brains and found that signature patterns existed for dysfunctional behaviours. Through exercises and scanning, he was able to help patients train their brains to change their behaviour.

The two men collected data from 55 business and community leaders with a variety of leadership skills, including entrepreneurs, bankers, lawyers, doctors, a land developer, a retired business school dean, a senior diplomat and a mountaineer. Prof Balthazard measured the electrical activity of their brains and demonstrated what he is believes is 100 per cent accuracy in determining who is a strong leader. He has also discovered that leaders with high “psychological capital” (hope, optimism, resilience) display different brain activity to those with low psychological capital.
Rest here, but you must register.

Personally, I am skeptical. Historical experience shows that many different styles of leadership work, depending on who the followers are. Some leaders are collegial, others charismatic, others enigmatic or authoritarian. What works? Well, anything, everything, and nothing, depending on the circumstances.

If Prof Balthazard achieved 100 percent accuracy "in determining who is a strong leader," he must have a very specific setting in mind, with highly specified types of followers.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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