When the Rationale Part of Our Brain Shuts Down

… and we are pushed into a dysfunctional leadership style, our behaviour becomes impulsive and unskillful. Here’s the 'why' and the 'what'.

From birth, human beings seek a sense of psychological safety. Our sense of safety is threatened when we experience normal but difficult emotions such as fear, anger, resentment, guilt, jealousy, envy and shame. These feelings are hard to tolerate, especially if they are not how we think we SHOULD feel.

At times, our sense of safety is sufficiently threatened to trigger a particularly strong defensive response. The amygdala, the source of emotional arousal illustrated below, scans the environment and reacts if it perceives a threat. When TRIGGERED, it sends a message to other parts of the brain, which releases stress hormones, flooding the body with adrenaline, cortisol and other chemicals.

>We then react INVOLUNTARILY, the need to protect ourselves takes over, and the prefrontal cortex – the rational, thinking part of our brain – SHUTS DOWN. When triggered in this way, our ability to listen, reflect and plan is all reduced, emotion is in the driving seat and our behaviour becomes impulsive and unskillful, pushing us into specific dysfunctional leadership styles.

Can we learn to remain at our most resourceful and constructive, even under pressure? Yes we can. Stay tuned for the 'how to'.

Leadership and the brain's design

By Patrik Andersson, executive coach at Amazing Leaders

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Graphics the limbic system