The Neuroscience for Leadership - Ideas for Leaders

The Neuroscience for Leadership

Harnessing the Brain Gain Advantage

About Author/s:

Dr Tara Swart is a medical doctor with a PhD in neuroscience, who now practices as a top level leadership consultant and business school adjunct faculty. Kitty Chisholm is leadership development consultant who has worked with BT Corporate University and other leading organizations. Paul Brown is a clinical and organizational psychologist and professor of Organizational Neuroscience.


Understanding leadership is essentially about understaning how to manage people – and the recent advances in neuroscience have given us enormous new insights into how and why people behave the way they do. Having a basic appreciation and understanding of this should be the minimum requirement for anyone wanting to lead others.

Core Idea

"No behaviour happens without neurochemicals happening first…" We are a function of our brains, so if you are wanting to lead people it is important to understand what initiates different behaviours. Dopamine, oxytocin and hormones such as testosterone all play their part – and usually significantly and repeatedly.

The authors address, at a fundamental level, many leadership and management challenges, competencies and capabilities, such as high performance, agility, engagement, and the roles of stress resilience and confidence. They explore and explain what is going on beneath those desirable leadership and management behaviours.

Want to know when risk-taking can be successful and when and why it can go awry? Take a read of chapter 4. Want to know how to change yourself and others. Chapter 7 addresses that. How to deal with stress? Refer to chapter 9.

They emphasize that, since the brain is plastic, it can change, and therefore, behaviour, specifically leadership behaviour, can be learned and hence changed. They also point out, however, that “… you have to start with what you have,” and this is likely to be “… a blend of genetic factors, early development and learning, as well as adult experiences of problem solving and decision making.” In other words, we can all change, but there might be limits.


The authors do not claim to have all the answers, on many occasions pointing out that over the next ten years, neuroscience research might prove our current understanding to be incorrect. Such is research. With regard to the future, the book is peppered with thought-provoking questions about how we might use our existing knowledge in wider arenas, where future research might go and what might get revealed.


  • Title: The Neuroscience of Leadership: Harnessing the Brain Gain Advantage

    Author/s Name/s: Tara Swart, Kitty Chisholm, Paul Brown

    Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

    ISBN: 978-1-137-46685-3

    Publishing Date: January 2015

    Number of Pages: 223

Author Knowledge Rating: 1-5 (based on their years of experience, academic expertise in subject areas, and exposure to cross-functional thinking in the area)

Readability: 1-5 score(1=dense and v academic; 5=frantic; page turner)

Appropriate Length: (1=could have been written in 25% of the length;5=could have been longer)

Core Idea Value: (1=nonsense (or entirely esoteric); 5=game-changer)