Here are the four mental powers of successful leaders, according to neuroscience.

Being productive isn’t the same as being busy. That’s it. Most often than not, we stress ourselves with too much work that’s a toll on our mind — the brain. And having the right mindset isn’t the same thing as having mental resilience, too. Having a well-fed, well-rested, and oxygenated brain is necessary for mental resilience, and a good way to handle stress in times of uncertainty. According to neuroscience, being mentally resilient is the factor that really distinguishes the average person from a successful leader. Here are the four mental powers you need to master mental resilience.

How To Train Your Brain 101

Over the years, applying neuroscience to business has been a topic of interest. According to neuroscientist Tara Swart, most business leaders prefer the idea of optimizing an organ (which seems tangible), to that of optimizing behavior (which is not). 

“If I say, ‘you need to be more emotionally intelligent,’ I have had people respond, ‘I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do,’” says Swart, executive coach and lecturer of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “If I tell them, ‘you can build a pathway in your brain that will make it easier for you,’ then many are more willing to embark on that process.”

Optimized thinking requires a healthy brain, Swart advices, eat and drink well, train well, sleep, and repeat. This is really important for your brain to be fully optimized for mental resilience. If you’re not even well-rested, for instance, you can lose about five points or more of your IQ. This is particularly common with business leaders who often take flights — the effects of jet lag on your circadian rhythm.

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To improve mental resilience and overall performance, Swart recommends that leaders work on the following:

#1. Neuroplasticity

Of course, “everything you have experienced in your life has molded and shaped your brain to favor certain behaviors and habits,” Swart says.

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However, these behaviors and habits may not be optimal. Focus your attention and practice new behaviors repeatedly. This redirects your chemical, hormonal, physical functions of your brain by creating new neural pathways. Meanwhile, your existing ones will wither from your lack of practice. To cope with this challenge, learning a new challenging task — like a new language or instrument — is the best way to enhance your neural plasticity.

“The fact that you are forced to attend to things that your brain hasn’t experienced before has its own benefits apart from what you learn,” Swart says. “The brain becomes more flexible, which [supports] things like being able to regulate your emotions, solve complex problems, and think more creatively.”

#2. Brain Agility

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If you want to be nimble, think nimbly. Period! Brain agility means being able to seemingly change your thinking modes differently: from being logical to intuitive to being creative. This is particularly useful for entrepreneurs. This is why most often than not leaders sought to multitasking — switching from different modes of thinking all at once. But they generally perform less than expected. Leaders can also opt that their teams leverage different modes of thinking. Swart recommends working on problems consecutively and looking at them from different angles.

“The fact that brain is likely to think in diverse ways or absorb diverse ideas means that you are more likely to spot trends, pivot, be ahead of the curve,” she says.

#3. Mindset Development

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There are several kinds of mindsets, these include fixed or scarcity mindset, and growth or abundance mindset. People with a fixed or scarcity mindset see limited opportunities — they believe traits like intelligence and talent are innate. Whereas people with a growth or abundance mindset see limitless opportunities — they believe hard work can help develop their skills and traits. A scarcity mindset leads to stagnation; an abundance mindset leads to opportunities. Swart suggests that leaders with a fixed mindset should improve by working on their neuroplasticity.

“It is about your appetite risk and attitude toward failure, so it makes sense that entrepreneurs are more comfortable with this,” she says.

#4. Simplicity

They say easy does it, and of course, the simpler the better. Or it doesn’t? But in a world where hyperactive brains are constantly streaming for ideas, as stress rises, it affects decision making. Practicing mindfulness helps leaders focus their bodies in a way that reduce stress, for instance, breathing and focusing in the moment can improve your concentration.

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“Figure out what you are going to wear the night before or wear the same thing every day,” she says.

Leaders who have mastered how to control their neural functions can assist those within their companies. For instance, cross-functional work programs can help employees create new neural pathways as they develop brain agility by learning new skills. They can also use their understanding of the brain to eliminate fear and stress out of the workplace by ensuring trust. Stress increases levels of cortisol in the brain, which affects most cognitive abilities and emotional control. People generally get into survival mode at sustained levels.

By contrast, “if you are in a really exciting environment where you have got lots of the hormone oxytocin flowing around your organization, you are more likely to make decisions that are not based on scarcity and survival but on abundance,” as Swart concludes.

Let us know if your boss has or will apply this in your company.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sat, Oct 30, 2021.



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