The Rise of NeuroLeadership

05/05/2015 09:35 am ET | Updated May 01, 2016

Did you know that when people feel excluded, it provokes the same sort of reaction in the brain that registers physical pain? Or that your yearly employee review, could be ineffective at generating the change you need in your organization?

The rise of neuroleadership in the workplace is elevating organizational behavior practice and theory to a new standard worthy of consideration. In past two weeks, the Wall Street Journal has featured two articles highlighting this emergent paradigm shift in talent management (The Trouble with Grading Employees and The Inner Workings of the Executive Brain). Citing recent departures from rating-based systems and an increase in employee coaching, companies are beginning to manage with the brain in mind.

What makes neuroleadership so innovative is that it provides solutions for professionals based on science to improve performance, manage diversity and facilitate better learning. According to Dr. Anna Tavis, founding partner of, "Science is a powerful engine behind the transformation taking place in our corporate organizations. Whenever organizations consider a change they now can refer to the scientific drivers to rationalize their decisions."

Why is the social nature of the workplace is still being overlooked? As a fresh batch of MBA graduates enter the workforce this summer, will they be able to look beyond their pivot tables and analytic software? Dr. Tavis continued, "practices that just a few years ago would have been considered "too soft" to reference are now accepted and standardized mostly due to the scientific discoveries that have helped change the way management thinks. . . she further noted that Dr. David Rock, the founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, "has been among the first to recognize this powerful link and to focus the conversation on the connection between the brain science and the organizational practice."

The NeuroLeadership Institute is a global research organization offering educational programs utilizing breakthroughs in neuroscience in order to transform leadership effectiveness. Clients include American Express, Ericsson, and Cigna to name a few. Theory and skills training is available worldwide and includes the popular Brain-Based Conversation Skills and Certificate. The next Brain-Based Conversation Skills program is in New York and starts Thursday, May 7, 2015. There is even an annual NeuroLeadership Summit in November which is open to the public.

Beyond the conversation skills, one of the most powerful neuroleadership coaching tools in Dr. Rock's SCARF hypothesis. Comprised of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness, the SCARF model can be used in coaching and by human resource professionals to manage the social needs of others at work. One of the main components is to increase reward and reduce threat. When the brain perceives a threat, whether real or perceived, the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain is affected which blocks individuals' ability to plan and create.

As neuroscience reveals the social nature of the workplace, companies can now increase retention rates and reduce the rising costs associated with turnover. Let's work smarter and not harder.