Neuroscience for Leaders: A book review by Bob Morris

Nweuro for LeadersNeuroscience for Leaders: A Brain-Adaptive Leadership Approach
Nikolaos Dimitriadis and Alexandros Psychogios
KoganPage (2016)

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable.”

Charles Darwin

Mikolaos Dimitriadis and Alexandros Psychogios offer what they characterize as “a practical and holistic approach to understanding and implementing the leadership brain,” adding that they propose “the brain adaptive leadership (BAL) approach as a way of thinking, feeling, and acting within organized social entities. Brain adaptive leadership is an attitudinal approach that individuals can follow in their attempt to recalibrate their brains and mould their behaviour according to lead projects, processes and people.”

The BAL approach consists of three core elements: the brain, adaptation, and leadership. This approach has four pillars. “These are the four main groups of ideas, scientific insights and practical recommendations that we have gathered, organized and used as a comprehensive brain-based approach in our business, managerial, educational, and personal lives.” The first pillar reflects the cognitive function of the brain, the second reflects the emotional life of our brains, the third reflects the automated responses and protocols of our brains, and finally, the fourth and last pillar reflects the social aspect of our leadership lives.

I agree with Dimitriadis and Psychogios: “Today, modern leaders need all the help they can get, wherever this comes from.” Hence the timeless relevance and importance of Darwin’s observation. These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of their coverage:

o Pillar 1: Thinking (Pages 8-9, 15-74, and 76-77)
o Pillar 3: Brain automations (9-10 and 131-155)
o Pillar 4: Relations (10-11, 163-217, and 216-217
o Brain power (17-31)
o Cognitive bias in challenging situations (39-41)
o Performance focus (51-74)
o Creativity (62-66)
o Adaptability (70-73)
o Pillar 2: Emotions (79-124 and 127-128)
o Emotions: Role in business decision making (81-100)
o Richard Davidson and emotional styles (85-94)
o Emotional quotient (97-100)
o The Brain: Basic emotions (105-111)
o Power of unconscious mind (131-136)
o Priming the unconscious mind (136-143)
o Habits (143-158)
o Persuasion (192-213)

I commend Dimitriadis and Psychogios on their skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include recurring sections in chapters throughout the narrative: “Keep in mind while reading this book,” “References,” boxed mini-commentaries, “Action box,” Tables, “How tos,” “Summary of [X],” “Keep in mind while reading this book,” and “References.” These devices will help facilitate interaction with key material and expedite frequent review of it later.

Each day, I realize that the world today has become more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I can remember. Organizations have a greater need now than ever before to have effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Dimitriadis and Psychogios observe: “People, especially leaders, need to understand that they play a critical role in formulating the VUCA world around us. They are not passive actors. To do so, though, they need to develop new skills of adaptation.”

“Brain science brings a message of hope here. This hope is called neuroplasticity. Our brain does not go unchanged during our life. On the contrary, it changes constantly, every single day. Neuroplasticity is the proven ability of the brain to change, be trained, adapt, grow new neural connections or degrade the existing ones.”

When sharing these thoughts, Mikolaos Dimitriadis and Alexandros Psychogios may have been channeling this insight by Alvin Toffler in his classic work, The Third Wave (1980): “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

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1 Comment

  1. Nikolaos Dimitriadis on May 2, 2017 at 3:40 am

    Thank you for reviewing our book Bob!!! Much appreciated! We live in revolutionary times and our brains’ reaction to what’s happening around us will determine the success or failure of this emerging new world. We hope that more people will take their brains seriously and become active agents in creating better organisations and better societies.

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