What our findings showed was a clear correlation between increased heart-rate, and increased learning

Using psychometrics, questionnaires, heart-monitors, video-recording and observational data, we discovered that our simulation both accelerates learning, and extends the shelf- life of that learning by embedding it deep in the emotional memory. Under pressure, you learn faster, and you acquire memories that last. We also found that the learning was largely independent of any demographic or psychometric variation between participants, and did not vary by gender. And the good news is that you do not need to go on a course to feel ‘resourced to cope.’ We just have to spot where you do not feel resourced, and take you through a process that gives you templates, like practising difficult conversations until you are not scared of them anymore. And one of the best things about learning under pressure is that it helps you to identify your ‘stretch zone’ thresholds. Figuring out where your ‘fight’ mode is matters, because it is where you will be at your cognitive best. Like the top performers in sport and the arts, you need to be able to step into this space when it really counts. It is not healthy to stay there for long, but it is where your brain is at its keenest. And now we know that if you know where you are under-resourced, you can keep extending this high-performing space, by systematically adding to your store of templates. Leadership as a word often suggests a status, a property or a state of mind. The word sums up everything that is stale about this topic. It sounds static, it sounds certain, it sounds cerebral and terribly important. So why is it that all the leaders I know feel like imposters? What they talk about is the daily messy reality of just muddling through. Yes, with a vision. Yes with a plan. But also with acute uncertainty, and fragile fealty from fickle talent, who are more inclined to hold you hostage over pay than to swear allegiance. Leaders are made, not born. Wrought by their experiences, good and bad. So it is not about a one-time business-school fix. It is about graft and craft. So I prefer the word leadersmithing. It takes a lifetime of being a journeyman to achieve mastery. But the disciplines of apprenticeship are based on the wisdom of long years of experience. And this approach can breathe life into the development of leaders, day in, day out. It suggests an approach that is about apprentice pieces, and about scheduling them into your day job until you have developed the templates you need to lead well. I was once given a very beautiful miniature marble font. It is an antique apprentice piece produced by a trainee stonemason to show that he was ready to graduate. By making something perfectly in miniature, he showed he was ready to be trusted with the big stuff. The selection of the right materials, the careful use of tools, the painstaking attention to detail, allowed him to create a tiny thing of beauty and usefulness. I think that developing leaders is all about this kind of activity, the accelerated acquisition of skill in the foundational practices of leading.

24 | Developing Leaders Issue 26: 2017

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