The Mind of a Successful Leader
Do the people who reach the top – and stay there – operate differently to other people?
In this post, we will be looking at the mind of a successful leader and what they do knowingly, or sometimes unknowingly, to optimize their performance. For those of you who are sometimes a bit skeptical about these things, you will be happy to know that it is all based on neuroscience.
The world of business is challenging and depending on your approach, it’s getting more challenging OR there the opportunities are getting more. The difference between these 2 outlooks, is that successful leaders can take challenges and turn them into opportunities. While the relationship between outlook and success is taken as common knowledge, it has been difficult to find scientific backing for why this statement is true. Neuroscience shows us that the more orderly a brain is, the more successful it is. The question therefore should be: is there a direct relationship between an organized brain and it’s outlook?
Dr Alarik Arenander, a neuroscientist, has researched the brain and its functioning for 45 years, specifically as it relates to the business leader. Dr Arenander mentions that there is a field of study within neuroscience called neuroplasticity. This exciting area of research is proving that a lot of beliefs we hold about our mind are in fact incorrect e.g. that new neural connections stop at a certain age. Neuroplasticity shows us that our brain is changing every single day.
The whole system running your mind changes based on what you have put in, therefore going back to where we started, if you create more orderliness for your daily activities your brain becomes more orderly. If you don’t create orderliness your brain becomes less orderly. Simple really, but not easy!
Acting globally vs. locally
So now that you know orderliness is one of the necessary conditions for success, how do you create more orderliness in your mind?
The research shows that we can act locally on specific areas of the brain and improve that area e.g the motor system can be improved by practicing drumming or the violin. This is where the research is of great benefit to us. It shows that a much better way is to act globally, rather than locally. An example from our everyday lives is that we are all aware that exercise improves the whole body and calms the mind. By doing exercise we improve our cardiovascular system as well as other systems. According to neuroscience, this would then be regarded as acting globally. Diet is another example of acting globally: you don’t feel good after eating junk food or drinking a bit too much during the week, do you? This affects all systems, including your brain, and so your results are affected negatively. Now let’s apply this to business:
How can you act globally when it comes to improving your business?
You might be surprised that acting globally does not mean re-reading all your self-help books and pushing your business mind to the edge by trying harder.
Invest in Rest
Yes, rest. Studies show successful people who reach the top, sleep on average one hour more than those burning the midnight oil. Rest is good for body, mind and soul. This is global action that is attainable by everyone reading this, tonight. Yet many people choose not to do this because it might not seem complicated enough for success. Experts believe that you are giving yourself a chance to fix what is not yet in order. Have you ever had clarity on a problem when you woke up? Dr. Arenander believes that this ordering of the brain is the ultimate competitive edge for any executive.
Your brain’s CEO
Within the mind, the prefrontal cortex is the CEO of the brain. It is in charge of sense-of-self, values, belief systems, creativity, intelligence, decision making and self-control. Therefore it is vital for your prefrontal cortex to be orderly, and this should also be the first point of focus for any business leader.
So which actions should you take and how can you rewire your whole brain by acting globally? Interestingly enough, the scientific research shows that there is a practice that has been with us for thousands of years. This practice has been making inroads into the hard-nosed world of business in the past few years and is no longer only reserved for the non-business world. It is scientifically proven to be the best investment of your time on a global level, and works on the prefrontal cortex of the successful leader’s mind. Would you be surprised to hear that it is…meditation?
Meditation integrates the brain globally like no other action you can take.
It improves mind-body coordination, reduces stress and anxiety and assists the prefrontal cortex to operate at an optimum level by ordering what is not yet in order.
There are many types of meditation. Some are more specific and take more effort, while others much easier and easy to get into. Simple meditations also induce the brain into the deepest form of rest, bringing about orderliness. The less you try to focus in meditation, the more orderly you get!
Any executive who wants to know how they can achieve maximum results, should look to meditation as a path to orderliness. With as little as 20 minutes twice a day it is possible to achieve this.
What does this look like for the executive in today’s business environment? The greatest investment an executive can make for their brain (on a scientific level ) is to finish their work for the day with a 20 minute session of meditation. This meditation would help you leave your day behind you and leave your mind clear instead of full, getting to an orderly state.
According to Dr. Arenander, in any group of 100 business leaders he addresses, 1% will reach their full potential and 3% – 4% will do well. The remaining 95% will be at the norm. Or in other words, they will remain just plain average.
The potential within this 95% of business leaders is absolutely immense and has the power to transform the business world as we know it today. Which begs the question: If it is so simple to change ourselves and achieve the success we work so hard for, why don’t we?
I will look at this question in a follow-up blog post, so subscribe now to get it in your inbox!