This episode features an excerpt from the Bridging Hearts and Minds of Youth conference, developed by University of California San Diego’s Center For Mindfulness, along with Stressed Teens. The conference was held in San Diego, in February of 2012, and this excerpt comes from Rick Hanson’s keynote, Managing The Caveman Brain in the 21st Century.
Anthony Gell- You’ve got a whole section in your new book on primal leadership, and the importance of emotion and sort of tapping into people’s emotions. So could you just tell me a little bit about what you mean when you say emotional leadership?
Daniel Goleman- It’s leading at the level of emotions, through emotions, and the best leaders do this naturally. So when you speak heart to heart you’re moving people but they’re sensing that you’re moving yourself. It’s genuine. And the medium through which leadership is relational, it is emotional. And now we know the brain centers that are involved. There is a new discovery in neuroscience called the social brain, its circuitry. We didn’t even know it existed ten years ago, but it turns out that when we’re face to face, when we’re on the phone even your brain and my brain are locked together and there is an invisible channel that’s passing emotions back and forth. And the best leaders help other people get and stay in the best emotional state to work at their best.
AG- So I assume then that they themselves, if the brain’s locked to some extent and this contagion occurs, then they themselves have got to be in relatively good moods most of the time.
DG- Well you’ve got to start by managing yourself, you’ve got to lead yourself first.
AG- So lets talk about that, because you’ve got a great chapter in there talking about the correlation between good moods and bottom line and there’s a direct correlation, so if a leader comes to work and they read your books and they understand the contagion principle, then how do they get in a good mood, if they are in a fundamentally bad mood?
DG- Let’s start with the data first. I think you’re referring to a number of studies that show if the leader on a team or in a group is in an upbeat mood people in that group catch that mood, and performance goes up. Decision making gets better, creativity improves. If the leader is in a downbeat mood, critical, angry, frustrated, people pick that up and performance goes down. So there’s a direct relationship between leader’s mood, group team’s mood, and performance. Once you understand that you see that a leader must start by leading by managing himself or herself first, because it’s going to affect everybody else.
AG- Exactly. And you mention there about authentic leadership, people will be able to tell the difference if you’re trying to get to peoples’ emotions but you’re just faking it.
DG- Well, you know, we have radar for that, and it’s built into the brain. If it doesn’t ring true it’s just not gonna work.
AG- Is there such a thing as a personality type that’s just a grouch? And if that is the case have they got any chance at leadership?
DG- Well there are types of grouches, and some grouches are lovable grouches. You know? I mean they seem tough on the outside but they’re soft on the inside, and people pick that up. There are some grouches who are actually hostile people who criticize, who express contempt and disgust, which is very damaging in any relationship. But in a leader to follower it’s terrible because it alienates people, you’re going to lose people.
AG- So can you tap into self mastery for a little bit and tell us how you actually can manage yourself if you come into work and you’re in a horrible mood, and you know that it’s very important that you’re in that leadership role?
DG- Well, first of all, notice that you’re in a horrible mood. It takes what we call mindfulness, which is a variety of self-awareness. You have to tune in to yourself. You can easily go through the day in a horrible mood, alienating everybody else and upsetting them, and not even know. So step number one: notice. Step number two: pause. Reflect on this, “Is this useful? Is it not useful?” Step number three: “Is there something I can do to change my mood?”
AG- Daniel, if you’re observing a group of ten peers, would you, do you think, just by observing them, be able to identify the sort of natural leader in that group of ten people? And if so, what do you think are the sort of attributes you’d look for?
DG- Yeah, I think that they would be listening, observing, and noticing what the unspoken need of the group is, and taking the first step toward fulfilling that need. That’s how leaders emerge. They sense what needs to happen and they make it happen.
Anthony Gell- You’ve got an audio cd out, which is Relax: Six Techniques To Lower Your Stress. Can you, for me and anyone else out there who gets in a stress state, give us some insights as to how we can manage that?
Daniel Goleman- Well, I did this audio instruction on six ways to manage stress. It goes back to some research I did years ago at Harvard, which showed that people really differ in what works for them as a relaxation modality. One thing doesn’t work for everybody, and so one way to relax if you want a method, and I recommend that people have a method and the reason is this: What you’re doing is training your brain to relax, even under pressure. You don’t want to learn this under pressure, you want to practice at home when things are quiet and calm, And you can try out a method and do it daily. Because you’re going to need that method in the heat of the day, during your frazzle, or approaching frazzle, moments, and if you haven’t practiced your brain won’t be able to do it. So one of the methods, for example, it’s very simply paying attention to your breath and letting go of other thoughts. Turns out that that’s very effective for many people as a way to both lower your metabolic state, which is to say get more relaxed, and to focus, to develop more concentration. One of the big problems today is staying concentrated amidst all the distractions. But for other people for example, a deep muscle relaxation will work better. That’s why there are six different methods.
AG- OK, so we’re just going to get the CD. But you, I’ve read, actually do it first thing in the morning.
DG- Yeah, I like to do a meditation first thing in the morning. I’m a writer, so I’ll have breakfast, then I’ll have a meditation session, then I’ll do writing, because I’m in a very focused state.
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