Neuroscience, leadership and an alternative to the candidate debate

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Research co-authored by a University of South Florida neuroscientist mapped the brain activity characteristics of “great leaders” — and found that individuals who rank as “more complex” in both arenas are the same who tend to rise in the ranks of organizations.

Dr. Robert Thatcher joined Wake Forest’s Sean Hannah on the mission to uncover the relationships between brain activity and leadership, and did so through the evaluation of 103 young military leaders between the ranks of officer cadet and major at an east coast Army base.

 Using 19 quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) electrodes applied to areas of the soldier’s scalps, the researchers measured patterns of brain activity while soldiers were exposed to multiple stimuli.  They also administered psychological exams intended to assess the complexity of the soldiers’ identities.

The findings? The brains of “great leaders” — those who demonstrate greater decisiveness, adaptive thinking and positive action — had a different landscape than other soldiers, showing more differentiated activation patterns in the frontal and prefrontal lobes.  They also had developed “more elaborate” self-concepts as determined through the personality tests.

This research team is motivated to apply neuroscience to study effective leadership, and has previously published a study indentifying unique brain functioning in people who are seen by others as highly inspirational and charismatic.

So what does this mean for Florida in 2014?  Instead of debates, let’s have our candidates on stage, hooked up to live neuroimaging Jumbotron monitors, while filling out questionnaires  and adjusting to heckler stimuli.  It could be easily as informative.