We all love to hear about leadership. But could it be that our brains are constantly fooling us as to what to learn from classic management models?
“The purpose of this book is to show how modern leadership, which promotes collaboration and which is prescribed and taught in the form of a priori reasonable and engaging models, is in fact clipping its wings due to the predispositions and biases of functioning of our brains,” the authors state. The tone is set. How then to escape this illusion of rationality?
It is clear that prescriptive models do not succeed, and that behaviors resist and constantly return to a centralized, authoritarian, transactional pattern, far from the spirit of cooperation long advocated by leadership programs, note the authors. . Is it the leaders who are to blame or our leadership models that are not appropriate? The way the brain works shows that we are in fact most often subject to our affects, our habits or our inferences. If the Taylorian model of bureaucracy – according to which some lead, others execute – has stood the test of time, it is because it is based on “the behavioral functioning of the human brain with, on one side, the prefrontal lobe, which manages the design and the planning of the tasks, and on the other, the system of the basal ganglia which manages the automatisms of the execution”.
The leader-follower model is reinforced by the brain’s natural inclinations and cognitive biases: insecurity, immediacy, self-centeredness, sense of hierarchy, temptation to least effort, confirmation of beliefs, and need for social conformism. These primary modes of brain functioning are all responsible for our automatic behaviors. To counteract these more emotional than rational biases, the authors advocate “a learning leadership model” which aims to “constantly seek to increase the value perceived by the customer and the various stakeholders”. A roundabout way of unlearning our ways of thinking to better question our choices, modify the framing of an issue and develop predictive intelligence or more intuitive judgment.
If cross-functional cooperation is not a natural behavior, then is there no hope of implementing collaborative work? The authors defend the idea that an open management style, focused on the quality of service and relationship, can overcome our natural inclinations. Building trust and fostering a culture of relational commitment are two practices that counteract bad brain kinks. Only collaboration and reciprocity can get us out of the transactional mode to build a more learning and united organization, oriented towards long-term objectives. And if that is not enough, the book offers a questioning (and a work of explanation) to stay away from each bias in order to reduce its influence.