bring together brains beliefs

Bring Together Brains and Beliefs for Balanced Leadership

It shouldn’t surprise us that a Columbia University professor challenged conventional wisdom, or that leadership should change as a result. What does stump us though, is how to infuse intelligence and wisdom in ways that lead genuine progress.

Phillip Hamburger’s book shows self-serving political origins of the “separation of church and state” policy. Thomas Jefferson used this strategy for political gain, and then a Clan-connected politician popularized this separation practice to secure exclusive rights for biased beliefs. Over time the separation concept became as sacred to the hub of our constitution, as belief to the hub of our faith.

Time for Change

Regardless of how separation of brains and beliefs originated, let’s challenge this controversial tradition in order to capitalize on differences in a new generation. The time is ripe for a new kind of leadership that respects brains and beliefs of all humans. A lifetime of studying brains, valuing differences where I work globally, and leading from a center of belief in God, convinces me that brains and beliefs offer lynchpins for a balanced leadership that includes all.

The time is ripe for a new kind of leadership that respects brains and beliefs of all humans.

We will continue to leave behind many of our best and brightest unless we combine brains and beliefs in a new kind of leadership.  Why so? Unless we direct our highest beliefs to lead all well, we’ll default to lead some poorly.

Brain-Compatible Beliefs that Build Resilient Communities:

1. Get Plastic

Change daily just as plasticity changes brains with every action. Question others about the best ways to serve and support them. Just as unmerited grace drives faith for instance, let’s redirect actions to listen more and support others in ways they’d advise us to lead them if asked with a mindset to support.

2. Change Chemistry

Encouragement alters chemistry in the human brain causing serotonin chemicals to convert to electrical impulses. The result? Inspired progress for all. Faith nudges us to encourage more than just those like ourselves for instance, and belief impacts leadership when we encourage all to speak and feel heard on a daily basis.

Brains and beliefs offer lynchpins for a balanced leadership that includes all. – @EllenFWeber

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3. Avoid Brain Shrinkage

Stress literally shrinks human brains in today’s increasingly toxic workplaces. One medical leader we work with combats stress with a belief in God’s infinite possibilities. No staff members are permitted to complain unless they propose a possible solution that will benefit the entire organization and actively involve themselves.

4. Alter Brain Waves

Sacred music alters brain wave activity and can increase mental alertness at work. Encourage people to use headphones to listen to music that moves them at work, and at times play spirited instrumental background music that resonates with all. Why not take suggestions at your next meeting to discover people’s musical preferences as an aid to focus.

No staff members are permitted to complain unless they propose a possible solution that will benefit the entire organization and actively involve themselves.

5. Teach Tone

An amygdala, the brain’s seat of emotion, can be tamed to react calmly under pressure. Identify specific ways that workers can engage opposing views on even hot topics, so that they build goodwill even among those who disagree. Faith teaches care for others and that includes respecting their differences, even when we disagree.

Balanced leadership unites what we know and what we believe in ways that anchor both. How could brains and beliefs reign together more to enhance your leadership, and support other’s differences?

Unless we direct our highest beliefs to lead all well, we’ll default to lead some poorly.

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Dr. Ellen Weber, is recognized globally for brain-compatible tools that build personal and organizational wellbeing. She gets game-changing results with large and small groups who look to people as capital and expect profit to result. Dr. Weber contributed to ASTD’s annual Leadership Manuel and addresses global leadership summits where the Mita Leadership approach helps to shape a new kind of leader. She also develops secondary and college whole-brain learning tools that transform lectures into award winning brain based tasks. Director of Innovative Change at the Mita International Brain Center. Weber also teaches leadership renewal at The Bittner School of Business. Her well respected workplace improvement program includes ground-breaking brainpowered tone tools to lead innovation and renewal. Her MBA Leadership course, Lead Innovation with the Brain in Mind currently impacts both online and real time leader development.

  • J.D. Kirk

    What Dr. Weber writes seems perfectly sensible on the surface. Digging deeper into the practical application the first thing that I question is the rule “No staff members are allowed to complain unless they propose a solution that will benefit the entire organization and actively involve themselves.”

    That sounds like a fantastic platitude, in practice on the corporate level in my opinion it is as dangerous to the health of an organization as any “rule” I’ve ever heard. The larger the organization, the more impractical the rule thus the bigger the danger it poses.

    Many can easily recognize a problem. Few can really put forth solutions that solve a problem that will benefit the entire organization, especially when the complainer has no knowledge of the inner workings of the rest of the organization. The rule is unrealistic at best, acts as a shield to protect ineffective leadership at its core.

    It’s hard enough for someone to speak out against a problem in a company when it is presumed that leadership doesn’t view it as a problem. Thus one is already swimming upstream and generally the staff will just “learn to live with it” as everyone else has managed to do. The problem is then allowed to fester and cause unintended consequences that muddy the waters and make the original problem much less visible leaving the organization working of fixing one off symptoms and perhaps never discovering/understanding the root cause.

    Perhaps the problem doesn’t effect the entire organization but 1 department? The rest of the company may not be aware, nor particularly care being about an issue as it doesn’t directly affect them.

    To my mind this “complaint rule” sends an unspoken notion to the staff that “if you don’t have a solution then you’re just bitching and we don’t want to hear it.”

    Recognizing a problem then ADMITTIMG the problem exist can be the two biggest obstacles leadership and an organization has to actually overcome. Many times the solution to a problem isn’t nearly as time consuming and painful to the organization than the process of recognizing/agreeing one exist in the first place. That takes a Sr. Leader being secure enough to admitting to a shortcoming and taking responsibility for it and also for taking the necessary steps to resolve. That involves checking ego’s at the door. Not exactly what majority of leadership is fond of nor capable of doing.

    If a “complaining staff” can only come to address a situation under the restraint that the entire organization benefits, that would appear to ensure the status quo. This one quote appears to go against the desired outcomes .

    Assume you have multi functional organizational then a problem in Finance will likely not be germane to a remote Field Sales office and vice versa. This “complaint rule”, while in theory would appear to be perfect and probably works really well in a Think Tank/White Paper scenarios and or a very small and intimate shop, in my opinion it only serves to ensure the status quo.

    If you have a staff that is discontented you better listen to what they have to say without precondition or you will ensure you have bigger problems. If you’ve been anywhere long enough you can spot the difference between “bitching and legitimate complaint”

    In the end I think this style works well for those holding power, wanting to maintain power regardless of performance, credibility, results etc…and pretty much ensures leadership is never held to scrutiny as the complaints of the staff are presumably at a consistent low level. No complaints does not equate to not having problems.

    I would be interested in scrutinizing the leadership of the person/persons responsible for enacting this policy as it smacks of someone that is tired of listening. If leadership gives up actively listening then your staff and organization is doomed.

  • Dr. Ellen Weber

    Thanks for your thoughts on this critical topic JD Kirk. Not surprisingly – the medical staff you mentioned, that turned around their toxic workplace, felt the same way initially in that story I related. Their solution was not only accurate but it worked especially well after folks got used to becoming a vital part of solutions.

    The new approach simply turned their workplace from toxic complaints into talented proposals — from a focus on what is wrong – to run with what could improve – and their results were evident enough to nudge them forward.

    It’s been my experience that many leaders I facilitate can be a significant and vital part of brilliant solutions when facilitated to lead possibilities together:-) It takes humility, it takes seeing workplace health from other’s view and my 40 years in the field show me endless leaders who have developed those essential skills. Easy? No way. Worth it? When facilitated as a group – the dividends reach to all concerned.

    Thanks for the many valid counterpoints you raised. Without question, the problems you identified are the very stuff of toxic workplaces.

    For the same reason that these problems do arise however — and because cynicism can harm daily progress — I especially love to teach a master level leadership course – LEAD INNOVATION WITH THE BRAIN IN MIND. In that MBA Leader course, I hear mind-bending stories weekly about people who learn leader skills to work together, build talent pools together and lead a new way forward for a very different kind of workplace experience.

    Stories shared in this article are actually quite tame compared to the shared results these innovative leaders design, model and apply – in ways that address the many real and toxic challenges you thoughtfully raised here. Many leaders in the pike today inspire the rest of us to ensure they can speak up and feel heard in our circles.

    In the best cases these innovative leaders take risks together to affirm what works
    well for others in their group — and they also learn to use a mindful tone that respects differences – and vales other’s views on each design proposed. In the worst cases they simply sidestep the negativity, cynicism and naysaying that leads folks to give up or relinquish a finer vision.

    They continually inspire me through a very different approach for leadership and a highly practical yet mindful well-being. Their own enthusiasm is often the sun on our shoulders and wind in our sails. What an honor to support and trust them!

    Thanks for helping me to clarify why I so love my facilitator role that adds passion daily for the work I do with so many fine leaders who inspire us all!

  • Robyn McMaster

    Ellen, it makes a difference when people have empathy for one another in a workplace. When workers show empathy, they care. So if someone sees a coworker having a problem he or she can step up and offer some assistance. For instance, if a coworker’s wife is having chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he might not be able to complete projects on time because he has to miss work. If another worker cares and knows how to help complete the project, he or she might spend extra time helping that co-worker, even though there would be no extra pay.

    When employees care about others, it inspires coworkers to help pitch in, too. Bringing brains and beliefs together can develop skills for empathy that most crave in today’s workplace.

  • Dr. Ellen Weber

    Wow Robyn, your insights bring to mind recent studies done on workplace empathy and the Mita International Brain Center’s work with the same.

    While empathy does not come by accident, any more than the skills required to build a steel bridge. Both are learned!

    Empathy is evident in the more effective leaders we see for 21st Century workplace horizons. The landscape has changed! Bravo!

    Tanveer Naseer, a highly skilled contemporary leader and colleague I deeply admire, shows 10 compelling reasons why the empathy you raised here matters! See and you’ll see an innovative leader who does far more than speak empathy! He lives and leads it, in ways you illustrate above. Another vivid reminder that new hope for old or stubborn workplace problems often emerges when skilled workers lead empathy with the brain in mind!

    Thanks for that reminder that we often witness in mindful leaders like Tanveer and others! Best, Ellen

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