How Neuroscience Can Help Business Leaders


By Dr Lynda Shaw

We know that our brain changes our behaviour and equally our behaviour changes our brain, so by taking charge of our development with the application of neuroscience techniques, business leaders can change and improve their business performance and efficiency. But how does it work? When we understand that our ideas, beliefs, behaviour and habits impact how we do things, neuroscience can help us work more effectively because we then have a deeper understanding of ourselves, colleagues, competitors, consumers and clients.

Understanding how to use appropriate verbal and non-verbal communication, actively listening to clients, customers and colleagues, and evaluating situations quickly and effectively to fine tune clarity of purpose, vision and values, is key to good leadership. Furthermore, in a world where information technology and globalization means our reach is even further, we can improve our communication, collaboration, emotional intelligence, problem solving, decision making and social dynamics and much more, by understanding our brains and putting neuroscience at the heart of future successful business.

Ways that neuroscience can help business leaders

Make good connections

Neuroplasticity is when we make new and changing existing connections and neural networks thereby remapping or reorganising the brain. We develop stronger connections in the brain through experience, practise and learning and other environmental influences. Neuroplasticity also explains how we can better our learning and memory and how the brain can recover from damage or develop through reinforcing, repetitive activities by strengthening relevant networks and allowing irrelevant ones to fade.


Be self-aware isn’t enough

Self-awareness means we take the time to think about our thoughts. Taking some time to recognise and understand your emotions and working with the executive functions of the brain (as opposed to knee-jerk reactions) helps us to control unconscious bias, develop better business relationships, and to regulate and manage ourselves.  When we are more self-aware, we better understand and are more intuitive to the emotions that drive other people’s behaviour which in turn improves our empathy leading to healthier working relationships.

Understand how you are perceived

You think you are assertive; they think you are a over-bearing.  You think you are inspiring; they think you are deluded.  Understanding how we are perceived means learning how we influence one another and being brave enough to be honest with ourselves by helping us notice unconscious, and sometimes very conscious, signals from others so that you can change your behaviour for better results. 

Enhance your communication skills to boost your message

Communication needs to be transparent, easy to follow, consistent and clearly supported by actions and role models to ensure important messages are heard properly and that we influence with integrity, motivate and inspire others. The brain doesn’t ‘do’ gaps, so when there is missing information or inconsistencies our brain will fill in the missing information based on experiences, beliefs, or perhaps messages from others who may well be ill-informed. Voice training programs can enhance communication by teaching techniques to convey messages with clarity and confidence, bridging any potential gaps in understanding. 

Power up your reasoning and decision making

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for regulating our emotions and also influences our ability to make decisions and does a good job in anticipating and predicting consequences.

The last two years have shown how being able to change, being nimble, agile, able to pivot and flexible, and making good decisions has enabled success despite adversity.  Those who relied on habitual ways of thinking and behaving may have been less able to adapt. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for regulating our emotions and also influences our ability to make decisions and does a good job in anticipating and predicting consequences. However, we can’t actually make a rational decision without an emotional response. Decisions involve both reasoning and emotions so balancing the two is crucial. Understanding that decision making is within your control helps us to make better decisions. Equally using emotion rather than allowing emotion to use us helps us to break poor patterns of behaviour that hold us back.

Good health is at the heart of good business

Most of us know that sustained high levels or stress are a danger to our mental and physical outcomes. Feeling overwhelmed, stressed and unhealthy is a huge personal burden and negatively affects progress, our personal development, self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. If we are not compassionate and good to ourselves, we are not in a fit state long term. When self-compassion is a habit we move from surviving to thriving and can deal with stress and think more clearly. 

Upgrade your emotional intelligence

Whether it is regulating our emotions, receiving information, storing memories, dealing with stress or creating a response to danger, understanding the process of the brain and how our sensory information, emotions, thoughts, beliefs and values impacts our and others behaviour is at the heart of good business. Our emotional intelligence helps us develop empathy, manage conflict, recognise problems at a deeper level, be intuitive, communicate better, create better engagement, stay on message, influence and inspire and is a sought after skill to recognise problems, think clearly to change things and communicate with clarity and ease. 

Listen to your intuition

Listening to our intuition or gut feelings is in fact subliminal processing based on implicit knowledge and pattern recognition to utilise memories, beliefs, experiences and past behaviour. It can be drawn upon to help us make quicker decisions and develop hopefully reasonably accurate problem solving.

Manage your time well

When we are too busy many of us try to multitask, but this lowers productivity, learning and memory capabilities because it involves us dividing our attention, being interrupted in our tasks and constant task switching, which compromises effectiveness and costs industry money. This in turn causes fatigue, exhaustion and agitation. Also consider this when you interrupt other people who are in the middle of one task to ask them to do another.

Be influential for all the right reasons

Increase trust and rapport. We know that when we are trusted our brains respond by producing oxytocin, a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter which is linked to positive social interaction, good wellbeing and anti-stress. Neuroscientific research shows that generosity, kindness and altruism can actually put our brain in an optimal state by reducing our stress levels and increasing other feel-good neurochemicals in our brain. When we are trusted others look up to us and choose to listen to our recommendations, thoughts and beliefs.

This article was first published on March 24, 2022.

About the Author

Dr Lynda Shaw

Dr Lynda Shaw is neuroscientist, business psychologist and recalibration specialist. Dr Shaw is national president of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA), an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, a Fellow of the Professional Speakers Association, as well as an entrepreneur and author of adult and children’s books.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.