To ignore what the latest research tells us about the brain is probably not recommended for those in law firms (or anywhere) wanting to understand and succeed at leadership. In an article "The Neuroscience of Leadership" by by David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz you will find an excellent overview of what gems neuroscience holds for law firm leaders.
Understanding the latest breakthroughs in the science of the brain will benefit those wanting to make changes in the law firm's organizational processes as well as in the achievement of goals. The way the brain works holds an important key to both management and leadership. Much of what we now read about management and leadership is not consistent with the latest findings in how the brain works and how it influences our behavior.
Here are some examples from the article of conclusions from cognitive science:
• Change is pain. Organizational change is unexpectedly difficult because it provokes sensations of physiological discomfort. • Behaviorism doesn’t work. Change efforts based on incentive and threat (the carrot and the stick) rarely succeed in the long run. • Humanism is overrated. In practice, the conventional empathic approach of connection and persuasion doesn’t sufficiently engage people. • Focus is power. The act of paying attention creates chemical and physical changes in the brain. • Expectation shapes reality. People’s preconceptions have a significant impact on what they perceive. • Attention density shapes identity. Repeated, purposeful, and focused attention can lead to long-lasting personal evolution.
What you focus on is what you will get and that relationship is borne out by the science; when you focus on something you actually change your brain. Repeated focus creates new synapses, new pathways in that wonderful brain of yours. The worn pathways have a direct bearing on what we will do and how we will behave. While this may seem a bit unbelievable, perhaps New Age, even fluffy thinking, I have no doubt that in five years the value of understanding neuroscience for effective leadership will be old hat and a driving component in leadership practice. Why don't you get a head start? Note 1: The article to which I linked here about the groundbreaking class at Santa Clara University School of Law on leadership for lawyers is in pdf format. Here the article is a Web link for those of you finding that format easier. Note 2 (added June 12, 2006): Here is an article from yesterday's Boston Globe about the article to which I linked above and another aligned article in Journal of Marketing. From the Globe article:
In strategy+business, a Booz Allen Hamilton magazine, executives seeking to refocus their organizations are advised to study breakthroughs in brain research. Among the relevant findings: The brain pushes back when told what to do. This is attributed to homeostasis, the movement of organisms toward equilibrium and away from change. On the other hand, brains will release an adrenaline-like rush of neurotransmitters when people figure out how to solve a problem themselves rather than being told how to solve it by highers-up.
Much more to be learned about leading people by reading these articles. Note 3 (added June 17, 2006): Here are links to some recent comments and analyses in the blogosphere on "The Neuroscience of Leadership." Businesspundit.com (Robert May) LeaderNotes (Ellen Weber) Johnnie Moore The Practice of Leadership (George Ambler)