i.e. we've looked at the faulty parts of the human brain to identify where the function resides and how it works. This has been the background to discoveries by people like Broca and Wernicke who now have their names associated to the area's in the brain they studied.
Other key learning & turning points in our discovery of brain function have followed some barbaric and unethical experiments in the world of experimental psychology over the last 100 years, but due to the horrors of the past, we are now in a position to better understand the paramount importance of the development of brains as 'the' foundation on which all other considerations must be built. We can say this today, because it's now entering the collective consciousness that it is our brain that is at root of all human actions and achievements, be those actions in our personal lives, as children, adolescents or as adults in our families, in our careers or in the sporting achievements we enjoy.
So what does this mean for leadership? From these many decades of study and recent advances in the field, we are now in a position to be able to consider the impact of 'control' on neural function along with other such practices commonly used throughout society to co-ordinate groups of people. For example, we can now consider the impact of fear ... on innovation, collaboration, engagement, ownership and other popular buzzwords like culture and autonomy. We can also consider the construct of social and physical conditions, full of equipment, process and policy, which dictate 'the rules of engagement' people are interacting with on a psychological and neurological level.
Thanks to the advances in the world of neuroscience, we now have the facts required to 'understand function from dysfuntion' in Public and Private organisations, from an informed social and psychological perspective. Looking through this lens, one thing is guaranteed. The world is a very, VERY different place. Through this lens, we can finally see, with a high degree of clarity, exactly 'what works' in respect to maximising 'people performance'. One sure-fire thing understood following the first 'peep' into this new world, is that the current culturally accepted and default approach to leadership and organisational co-ordination and control is a long way from where it will have to be, if we're to create organisations which can deliver true 'Corporate Social Responsibility' (CSR) at this depth.
Examples of this were provided by a BBC report in the South East this week. It was shown that 'Sickness through Stress' is a growing issue, with Emergency services in the region losing the equivalent of 182 years of work in the last year, while councils across the region reported Stress as the cause of 20,000 working days lost in Norfolk, 9000 in Suffolk and 3000 in Essex. John Medina in his book Brain Rules cites similar stats from across the US, which equate to $Billions of lost revenue.
For those of us with a little more knowledge around the issue of stressor hormone release and the negative effects it has on physiological homeostasis, it's obvious that this is not only ludicrous, but completely unsustainable. Not least due to the fact that stressor hormones have a detrimental impact on cellular stability when present in the human system over extended periods. Stress can be shown to negatively impact learning and adaption capabilities in the human brain, reducing the effect of substances like Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) while causing cellular damage which can lead to heart disease and cancer. It's not Socially responsible for leaders to create conditions in which people find themselves stressed to this level and ultimately, such short-minded leadership costs the organisation, while missing the opportunities that come from the opposite effect! (Of course, this is impossible to report through standard KPI's and financial summaries of performance, fulfilling the increasingly popular term 'We don't know what we don't know').
So, to answer the CEO walking into the bar, we might say, Leadership in the future will be as different as a current CEO is from the head of a Tribe of Cavemen .... and that's where we might work a joke or two in ... where possible responses might be "So no different at all then", or "so what fear based control mechanism will they use after the club and the pen?"
The reality is, we hope, leaders, in all walks of life, Politics, Pedagogy, Parenting, Production etc. will recognise the limitations of using fear and systems to control human brains. They will understand the strategic and communicative mechanics required to move beyond this and into a culture of engagement, ownership, accountability and responsibility.
The difference in benefits available to the CEO who can inspire those brains in his or her organisation to exist in a state of innovative responsibility and not in fear of failure or rejection can be summed up by watching the children's film Monsters Inc. Just like Sully and Mike, we think we're getting all the power the human race has to offer in our current fear based conditions, but when we release humans from fear, we find there's a million times more power in Laughter and smiles.
It's how you lead your organisation, the knowledge you have, the decisions you make, which will determine how the people in your organisation perform. As they used to say in days gone by, 'A happy worker is a productive worker'. We can now show how and why that's the case. The only thing leaders have to do today is decide if they'll be a leader of the past, or a leader of the future ... and if we can influence that decision, we might point out, the future is where the money is.