In times of emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first

Self-awareness of where we are directing our attention allows us to notice when we are distracted by our thoughts and associated feelings. Since we spend around 47% of our waking time thinking about something other than what we’re doing, our propensity for mind-wandering can be turned into something useful by choosing to consciously think about our thinking. Taking time out to think more deeply, to reflect and consider is a powerful way of checking that plans and strategies are on track to achieve the desired outcomes.

Switching to default mode allows the spotlight of attention to include others

Choosing to uncouple from focus allows the brain to switch to using the default mode network where, in addition to self-reflection, we become more aware of the emotional state of those around us. This promotes social understanding and empathy.

A 2009 survey of 60,000 leaders by Zenger and Folkman revealed that maintaining a single-minded focus on either results or people alone wasn’t perceived by employees the mark of a great leader. Combining the two saw the result jump from 14% and 12% respectively to a significant level of 72% leadership effectiveness.

David Rock from The Neuroleadership Institute and the Management Research Group took this one stage further, analysing what percentage of managers could be considered to be in the top 33% of performers as measured by this dual capability. He found it to be a mere 0.77%.

However the opportunity to improve leadership effectiveness using the recent findings from brain science is readily available and includes: