By DAVID ROCK
Want to be a leadership researcher? All you need are eyes and ears, and the ability to notice and describe patterns. Or if you want to test your theories, you might need to know how to set up social science experiments.
This situation is good for the publishing industry — an Amazon search shows 60,352 books in the ‘leadership’ category — but there are still huge gaps in our understanding of leadership. We still don’t know if it’s more about traits, attributes and competencies, or about what followers need. Leadership development still involves a lot of guesswork. As a result, organizations don’t have enough good leaders, and some of the leaders we have do some remarkably unintelligent things (like betting the housing market will go up forever.)
Neuroscience research is helping fill in critical gaps. While it’s still tricky to scan a leader’s brain while running a meeting, we can study some of the building blocks of what leaders do — making decisions under pressure, solving complex problems, negotiating a transaction, or trying to persuade others. There are been some big surprises in the research. Here are just a few.