MIT Sloan Executive Education Blog

4 brain superpowers necessary for leadership success

4 brain superpowers Tara Swart

Today’s executives are seeking new ways to achieve optimized thinking in order to make better decisions more quickly, maximize their productivity, solve complex problems, and to unleash these same capabilities in their teams. All of the above requires a healthy brain, which is one of the reasons that the application of neuroscience to business has become popular in recent years.

In a recent Inc. article, the writer Leigh Buchanan spoke with Tara Swart, a neuroscientist, executive coach, and MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer, to hear her thoughts on making our brains—and those of our teams—more nimble, innovative, and resilient. In the article, Swart offers up these four brain superpowers worth developing:

  • Neuroplasticity. Instead of sticking with old habits which might not be the best, focus on new behaviors that can redirect the brain’s chemical, hormonal, and physical resources to create new pathways. Studies show that we can enhance the brain’s plasticity by learning something new such as a language or musical instrument. Learning this new skill makes the brain more flexible, and supports tasks like problem solving, creative thinking, and regulating emotions.
  • Brain agility. Encourage brain agility by learning to think nimbly. Leaders need to be able to think both logically and creatively, which allows them to spot trends and think ahead of the curve. Swart suggests working on problems consecutively and from different angles to foster this outcome.
  • Mindset mastery. Discover how to embrace a growth mindset (rather than a fixed mindset), which leads to innovative thinking. We need to realize that we are continually evolving and can develop intelligence and talent through hard work.
  • Simplicity. Practice mindfulness (i.e., breathing, thinking in the moment) to reduce stress hormones and multiply the folds in parts of the brain associated with executive function.

Once executives have embraced these practices, Swart says they will be able to apply lessons learned in their organizations, allowing the workplace to become an environment where stress and fear disappear and innovation and risk-taking flourish.

If maximizing your brain’s potential is of interest, consider taking one of Swart’s short courses, Neuroscience for Leadership and Applied Neuroscience: Unleashing Brain Power for You and Your People.

Read the complete article here.


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