We now know, thanks to

neuroscience, that templating can be used deliberately to build muscle- memory for leading in the future

That’s it. That’s the recipe. Master that and you can lead anything you want. And we know from the experts that all you need to do is 10,000 hours’ worth, and you will be an expert. But do you know any leaders who have that kind of time to spend on practice? Luckily, there is a shortcut. That templating thing. We had been running a leadership simulation at Ashridge Executive Education based on this research for a number of years. It clearly worked, but how? We decided to wire participants up to heart-monitors to find out. What our findings showed was a clear correlation between increased heart-rate, and increased learning. That’s right – if your heart is going like the clappers and you feel a bit sick, the likelihood is that you are learning your head off. So all those happy sheets about whether the trainers were nice or not? Not worth the paper they are written on. No pain, no gain. How does that work, exactly? We started with a snippet of theory about stress. All performers know the benefits of first-night butterflies, that surge of adrenaline when you are primed and ready to go. The idea behind the ‘fight or flight’ stress response is that our brains are conditioned to work best when we are in ‘fight’ mode, to give us the best chance of survival. Once we are in ‘flight’ mode, we need less complex cognitive functioning and more physical prowess, so our bodies re-prioritize for us. We stay in ‘fight’ mode for as long as we believe that we have the personal resources to prevail. Being resourced to cope is not a scientific measure, it is a feeling, an instantaneous decision we make, which is why you hear stories about ‘hysterical strength’, when grannies lift cars off toddlers when they should not have been able to. The more your brain reckons it has relevant templates, the more you will be able to keep delivering under pressure.

Developing Leaders Issue 26: 2017 | 23

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