Neuroleadership: Leadership for the 21st Century

Leading Through Lockdown and Beyond

In this blog, Deborah Hulme, founder of Minerva Engagement and the Neuroleader Academy highlights why, in the face of rapid and continuous change, the demand for neuroleadership is higher than ever before.

The uncertainty felt as a result of the pandemic has increased the demand for robust and effective leadership

When Covid hit, within an instant our teams were dispersed across many different locations, all subject to change and uncertainty, and increasing the demand for robust, effective leadership to navigate and lead us forward.

The reality was one of unprecedented change, so much so that even the phrase ‘unprecedented change’ itself has become a cliché.  Every aspect of who we are as human beings from work life to social life and from family life to hobby life was put to the test.  In the space of a few short weeks everything changed and, whilst we all dreamed of the time we can ‘get back to normal’, there is an increasing lack of certainty about what that ‘normal’ will look like.

So many things will have shifted and changed. We might resume where we left off or we might need to carve out a new way of living and enjoying life. Only time will answer that conundrum. Meanwhile we are all struggling and striving to find a way through where we are.

This current crisis has impacted all of us in different ways

I have heard different stories from different people. For a few, the rhythm of life has not changed dramatically from before, for others certain adaptations have been required and for many there have been tumultuous changes to daily life. Some of my friends and relatives are on furlough, some have lost loved ones, some have been laid off with no furlough, some have wrapped up businesses with the hope that they will re-open or they have wrapped up altogether.

Others are working from home in conditions that make ‘working’ seem almost laughable. There are those who are locked away, on video call after video call, and wondering why they are exhausted and irritable by 3pm in the afternoon. On top, there are the everyday heroes who are providing our services, exhausted, and coping with the daily worry of becoming sick or passing infection onto loved ones.

To thrive rather than survive requires new mindsets and behaviours

All-in-all there is barely a person in the world who has not been directly or indirectly impacted. I am honestly, therefore, not sure what ‘normal’ means anymore. However, out of crisis the seeds of opportunity always grow somewhere, bringing new ideas, thoughts and ways with them. Maybe as leaders, we can use this time to re-balance how we take care of the self, how we build and develop relationships and how we connect, collaborate and work with each other.

If we are going to flourish during this period, we can’t do what we did before in the way we have always done it, with the only difference being the replacing of in-person with video. To thrive rather than survive we will need to flex and change everything from our systems and processes to how we lead and communicate, developing the behaviours and mindsets required to meet the demands of the new world. Many of us were on the way already. The difference now is that ‘nice to have’ no longer exists.

Good leadership ripples through teams and makes a tangible difference at every touchpoint

As leaders we will need to call on the skills of leadership rather than management. That is not to say management is not important. It is, and it is needed, however, it is not leadership. Leadership is a discipline in its own right. Leadership is grounded in the competencies of performance, agility, innovation and collaboration, it is developed and practiced over time and it protects, fuels and fires the energy within our organisations in ways management does not.

The question is, do we have the skills, patience or inclination to make it work? It is very easy to tell someone what to do or just take a task off them and give it to someone else. It is much harder to engage and empower, to let go, to listen rather than tell, to allow others to learn and develop, to bring their ideas and share their thoughts. It takes a different kind of learning, a different kind of practice, a more human-centric approach to leadership – which is where neuroleadership comes in.

By applying the principles of neuroscience to our leadership practice, we develop a deeper understanding of ourselves as individuals and of those around us.  We are more able to regulate our own levels of stress, anxiety and emotion, and more attuned to spotting the signs in those we lead.  We are equipped to be more resilient, enabling us to be the calm and steady guiding force in times of uncertainty.  We also know how to build from past experiences, and what is required to engage and motivate our teams for greater collaboration and innovation.

I have seen it, experienced it and witnessed it and when neuroleadership is successfully put into practice it is powerful, really powerful. Good leadership ripples through teams and makes a tangible difference everywhere it touches. Neuroleadership is not easy, it’s not learnt in one workshop or one weekend, however, one thing is for certain, successful organisations will need to invest in neuroleadership if they are to flourish in the future.

Our Neuroleader Academy Programme is designed specifically to support leaders as they develop the skills and capabilities to flourish in the 21st century. The transformative four-module programme, grounded in the latest science and behavioural research, delivers tangible results that deliver real change in day-to-day work and personal life. For more information click here or contact