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Is coherence the key to good leadership?

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Is coherence the key to good leadership?

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The success of our organizations at hiring the bets managers has been a constant source of consternation on the blog for sometime now.  Only last month I wrote about the frankly shocking data returned by the recent Gallup survey suggesting that over 80% of managers are not up to the job.  They went on to identify what they believe to be the main skills managers need to be a success in their job:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

A paper, from the W.P. Carey School of Business, looking at the neuroscience of leadership makes a rather more simple claim however.  It suggests that the prime thing that sets a good leader apart from the rest is coherence.

The study saw two leaders tracked for their level of influence.  The first leader was a typical career climber, regularly switching jobs as he scrambled up the corporate ladder.  He was asked to create a vision statement for his current employer, and struggled at the task.  His skills were more attuned to climbing the pole than they were actual leadership.

The second leader by contrast worked for a nonprofit organization and he was highly attuned to his role and the importance of it.  As such, his vision for his organization was one that freely flowed and was positively received by stakeholders of the organization.

When employees of each leader were asked by the researchers about their competence, you can perhaps imagine the outcome.  The second leader scored very highly, but the first leader ranked amongst the lowest of the 50 leaders studied.

Each of these leaders was wired up to a brain scanner to determine their level of neurological coherence.  This was designed to test the degree to which their neurological circuits interconnect and coordinate their activity within the prefrontal area of the brain.  This area is widely believed to integrate thoughts and emotions, whilst also playing a big role in our understanding of other people.  It’s an area the conscientious folks out there are strong in for instance.

The best performing leaders, such as the second leader from above, all scored very highly for neurological coherence, whilst the worst performing leaders scored badly in this area.  Food for thought when picking your next manager.

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