Dopamine – knowing less and
moment to moment during the day our brain wave patterns fluctuates between
BETA, Alpha and Theta wave bands without ones conscious control. Each of these dominant states has associated
neurotransmitters/neurochemicals which is experienced as bodily sensations and
emotions. Thus our brain
chemistry and our brain waves go together.
Dopamine is one of these
neurotransmitters synthesized by a very small group of neurons in the brain
stem and is the neurotransmitter
linked to novelty seeking, desire and reward.
EEGs show a spike in brain activity (13 HZ- 16HZ) or (gamma – low beta)
which is accompanied by the release of dopamine (in the frontal lobes) when
there is a though process of “curiosity” taking place. However, since the brain is
efficient and takes short cuts on what it already knows as soon as the new
solution, insight or experience
becomes familiar it is
“categorized” by the brain as “business as usual” with a resulting smaller
electro – chemical reaction. So the feel good factor diminishes as you
become used to the experience, approach, solution or situation.
So to ensure that the brain keeps finding novel
solutions and to be vigilant regarding “categorization” novel experiences need
to be cultivated. This can be done by
confronting the perceptual system with people, places and things it has not
seen before. However to experience it as
a “feel good encounter” where dopamine production is stimulated the mind must
be calmed and relaxed. The moment one
experiences a hyper focused state with accompanying feelings of agitation and
irritation, the dopamine has been converted into adrenalin and this process
cannot be reversed. The innovative
thought will be turned in to narrow
“black and white” thinking.
conclude to try and motivate oneself through stress (e.g. adrenaline), one
really need to think again. This is like
shooting yourself in the foot while trying to run. The brain needs the slow electrical
frequencies and the chemicals associated with relaxation to perform really
high-level intellectual functions like finding innovative solutions. It’s all about relaxation by knowing less and learning more –
curiosity, mystery, experimentation, surprise, amazement, wonder, reflection
contemplation, information, knowledge, insight, inspiration, discovery,
puzzles, solutions, mental challenge and intellectual mastery, stimulate the
brain to produce dopamine, a wonder-full
Berns, G., (2010). Iconoclast. Boston. Harvard Business
Gellatly, A., & Zarate, O., (2003). Introducing
Mind and Brain. Royston. Icon Books.
Ratey, J., (2001). A user’s guide to the Brain. New
York. Pantheon Books.
Rock, D., (2009) . Your Brain at Work. New York. Harper Collins
Mirror Their Leaders—Literally
key part of being an authentic leader is displaying relational transparency (Walumbwa, et al., 2008) which refers to the degree that the leader reinforces a level of openness with others that provides them
with an opportunity to be forthcoming with
ideas, challenges and opinions.
Thus they appropriately self disclose.
Typically followers do or mirror what the leader does and this has spin
offs across the organization.
Mirror neurons may represent the neurophysiological
correlate of empathy and humans can imitate or extrapolate the intentions and
emotions of others possibly via this system. (Tabibnia, 2011)
understanding the neurobiology of this imitation process can provide key
leverages points for culture tuning because leaders’ emotions and actions
prompt followers to mirror those feelings and deeds (Goleman & Boyatzis,
2008). The effects of activating neural
circuitry in followers’ brains can be very powerful.
the positive side mirror neurons
result in followers detecting the leader’s
smiles and laughter, prompting smiles and laughter in return.
the negative side a boss who is
self-controlled and humorless will engage those mirror neurons in his team
members, leading to a organizational
culture that is self-controlled and serious and on the extreme end even a bullying atmosphere and culture is
created that permeates the organization.
to Hughes (2005) authentic
leaders who appropriately self-disclosed with followers were establishing
relational transparency and this enhanced motivation. So to be
aware of your mood as leader and that it is basically a broad casting station
for the entire organization is vital.
who can self regulate in favour of a good mood,
will help people take in information effectively and respond creatively
(Goldin et al, 2008). Thus there is a strong business case for laughter and
more smiling in the workplace.
M. H. (2004). Culture and aggression: From context to coercion. Personality and
Social Psychology Review, 8(1), 62-78.
Goleman, D., & Boyatzis, R.,
(2008). Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership. Harvard Business Review. September 2008.
P.R., McRae, K., Ramel, W.,Gross, J.J., (2008). The Neural Bases of Emotion
Regulation: Reappraisal and Suppression of Negative Emotion BIOL
Hughes, L. W. (2005). Developing transparent relationships
through humor in the authentic leader-follower relationship. In J. W. Gardner,
B. J. Avolio & F. Walumbwa (Eds.), Authentic leadership theory and
practice: Origins, effects and
development; monographs in leadership and management (Vol. 3, pp. 43-81). San Diego,
Tabibnia, G. (2011, Nov 3). Class lecture
given for Post-Graduate Certificate in the Neuroscience of Leadership – on
Mirror Neurons and Empathy - March 2011 Intake.
F. O., Avolio, B. J., Gardner, W. L., Wernsing, T. S., & Peterson, S. J.
(2008). Authentic Leadership: Development and Validation of a Theory-Based
Measure. Journal of Management,
Philosophy of the
social brain at work
"The fact that an opinion is widely held
is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd;
indeed in view of the
silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be
foolish than sensible."
"To disagree with three-fourths of the British public is one of the first
requisites of sanity."
of the mind refers to the distinction between what one thinks, intends or feels
versus what others think, intend or feel (Premack & Woodruff, 1978). It implies that others are governed by the
same mental states as we are thus we look at our mindsets when trying to
understand others’ mindsets. According
to Mitchell (2009) cited in Radecki, 2011 the neurobiological activation of the
medial prefrontal cortex overlaps when we think about ourselves or when we think
about others. It can be argued that theory
of mind is essential to interpersonal communication and social relationships
but there is also the risk of a cognitive bias (or error) called the false
consensus effect. False consensus is a
cognitive bias which implies that people overstate the degree to which they
think other’s have the same opinions than they do or assuming that others know
exactly what you mean. (Ross et
application of this at work is big: When
explaining a Business Strategy, A new Project design, or Business case for a
new venture, Unethical Behavior (when a powerful leader actually believes his or her unethical
behavior is right) leading to tunnel vision where the leader and the entire
company can become blinded to other behavioral options.
leaders need to be aware of this false consensus and should robustly solicit
inputs from others; to ensure the cognitive errors/false consensus is reduced.
Given that leaders are often under tough deadlines to churn out profits and
thus under high cognitive load they default to their own “know how” or false
consensus (Radecki, 2011). This can have
negative consequences for both business results and team effectiveness.
conclude leaders need to be vigilant and self aware of their own cognitive bias
– if they are not self aware and test their self- awareness with others they
will limit their understanding of others to the same degree. Thus be conscious of people’s differences and
be cautious to “generalize”, “group think”, “consensus decide” or “tunnel
Premack, D., & Woodruff, G. (1978). Does the
chimpanzee have a theory of mind.
Radecki, D., (2011, Nov 17). Class lecture
given for Post-Graduate Certificate in the Neuroscience of Leadership – on
philosophy of the social brain - March 2011 Intake.
Ross, L., 1977. The" False Consensus Effect": An Egocentric Bias in Social Perception and Attribution Processes.. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.