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When we change the way we communicate
we change the society.
- Clay Shirky -

E-education, is a revolution. Officience experienced it for you

In my previous article, I talked about e-education and massive online open courses – also known as MOOCs , so I decided to take a look at these. I am currently taking this class on Coursera, one of the most well-known MOOC, and I would like to share that experience with you. This class is called: Inspiring leadership through emotional intelligence.

A flexible & interactive lecture

The lectures are mostly in a video format, which is an entertaining but also interesting way to learn. Through a video, you can send and receive more emotions with the teacher’s tone of voice, but also the spoken language makes it easier for the student to connect with the teacher.

The videos are not too long, approximately 10 minutes each, which is, in my opinion, the right amount of time to listen, focus and learn. But this course is more than about video format classes, there is a weekly quiz, a final exam, assignments and due dates for each of those. You can also discuss on forums where students interact with each other and share ideas: in my opinion, this is the most useful and fulfilling  part of the course.

What I found unfortunate, on the other hand, was the lack of human contact during the course. As a matter of fact, this can be frustrating when you have instant questions while listening to the class. During 8 weeks, the only thing you can do is interact with your computer. I would suggest taking a MOOC course with a friend, or a family member to share and interact with an actual human being. That way, you can see another perspective.

What I really appreciated was the content. Dr. Richard Boyatzis is an expert in the field emotional intelligence, behavior change and competence. The purpose of taking this course is to understand better how great leadership is related to emotions, and emotional intelligence.


What is a great leader?

How do you convince people ? You convince them by emotional argument, and then use rational arguments afterwards. How can you inspire others? What is the kind of leadership that excites us and makes us wanting to bring our game ? Outstanding leaders know that the music of leadership is emotions, and people who are good at leadership are able to help us manage emotions in the process. A good leader empowers, values people around him, helps them find  a meaning in what they are doing and where they are in the bigger picture. He encourages and trusts them. Effective leaders use the purpose of the organization as the context.

If we look at the data sideways, we come to a very alarming observation. About 50% of the people in management leadership position are not adding value in anyone’s point of view. Another 20% to 30% might be adding value in one person’s point of view. That means that you could take 70% to 80% of the people in management jobs in your organization, out of their management role, and the organization would function more smoothly.  Those 70% to 80% are called dissonant leaders, meanwhile the 20% to 30% remaining are called resonant leaders. To become a resonant leaders, you need to develop your emotional intelligence to understand better the ones surrounding you.

Neuroscience of leadership

What really caught my attention in the course was a part about neuroscience of leadership.

A study of executives was made. What they did was interviewing these 50 year old executives about moments in their lives with resonant leaders and dissonant leaders. We extracted from the interviews six specific episodes that each of them had with a resonant leader and six moments with a dissonant leader. A number of weeks later they came back and went through a FMRI, a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine, in which they repeated back these specific moments and asked them to react to how they remembered the leader, his or her style, his or her effectiveness, and the impact they had on them. When they put all of that data together, they’ve found a number of differences that help us to understand, not just the feelings that resonant leaders versus dissonant leaders create, but also what goes on in their brains. One of the things they found is the activation of the mirror neuron networks.

Different types of networks in our brain

The mirror neuron networks allow us to mimic actions of others. Hemodynamic sympathetic networks allow us to activate directly in our brains something that tunes us into another’s emotions. Resonant leaders activate those networks in order to understand how people around them feel, and to manage those emotions.  What’s worth remembering is that these activations occur in milliseconds and last for a very long time. They occur below consciousness.

One of the things they found is that in response to these memories of resonant leaders in their lives, the executives activated the mirror neural networks, which means they are willing to mimic actions of the resonant leader. When they were exposed to these moments that they had with dissonant leaders, they deactivated these same networks.

Another point that needs to be put forward: a study proves that when we are given an analytic task, we’re given something that requires analysis, numbers, finance, physics, we activate a network in our brain called the task positive network. This is the part of our brain that enables us to focus and solve a problem. But the task positive network also blocks out other possibilities and in fact, ignores certain things.

When we were given social situations to deal with; somebody arguing with someone, someone asking someone for a favor, someone trying to appeal to someone else, we activate a different network called the social network which is a component of the default mode network. What was showed is that these two networks are almost completely independent, they have very little overlap and they suppress each other. So when you go into analytic mode, when you’re focusing on problem solving you’re suppressing the social mode. And when you go into the social mode, you’re suppressing the analytic mode. Now, the fact is that we need both. You need to be able to focus and make decisions and solve problems. And we need the social network, not just to deal with people, but also to deal with emotions, moral configurations around social issues. It’s in the default mode network, and the social network, that we’re open to new ideas.

In the study it was very clear that the recalling moments with resonant leaders activated the parts of the social network in the default mode network, led to more activation of parts of the brain identified with more approach activities versus avoidance activities with the response to dissonant leaders.

And that when people reacted to moments with dissonant leaders, they were about a third of the time activating these social default mode networks, but two thirds of the time, they were suppressing them.

A body of psychological, and behavioral evidence has been brought forward through this study, and now we can understand better what goes on in the brain, at very fast speeds, predominantly unconsciously.

I think this helps reflect on the day to day experiences that we might be having with leaders we interact with, and it is important to understand how our brain works in order to understand better how we should behave as great leaders.

I would highly recommend Coursera if you want to take classes on MOOCs, because they offer a good amount of classes with a trustworthy content.

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