How the brain of natural leaders works

Natural leaders benefit from their emotional system, without becoming a victim of it.

How the brain of natural leaders works.

Over the years we’ve learned that the ability to manage our emotions – remain calm under pressure – has a direct impact on our performance. True!

This doesn’t mean though that we have to shut down our emotional system entirely. I’ll tell you a secret: you will not be trusted as a leader if you do.  Even more, turning into a rational robot, is life threatening.

Burnout, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, the neural diseases of our time,  are all results of not listening to our emotional system. After all, we are human. Dehumanization, especially at work, makes us sick. So far for better performance.

Natural leaders benefit from their emotional system, without becoming a victim of it.

If you followed my work, you’ve read that I’m convinced that natural leaders are role models in showing that we are all humans of flesh and blood.  They show up fully, emotional system included. In one way or another they manage to show emotions, without being aggressive or over emotional. Even under pressure. This vulnerability makes us trust them and makes us want to connect with them. The key to engagement. How do they do this?Trust increases when you show self-reflection, vulnerability, compassion and connection. Human qualities natural leaders dare to address.

A lot of people I coach are afraid that if they start showing their human qualities they will:

– be labeled as weak

– loose control over themselves and become aggressive or the opposite helpless and    weepy

  • – What if I turn red in front of an audience?
  • – What if I start shouting at my team?
  • – What if I cry in front of my staff?
  • – What if my people see that I can’t cope with the pressure?
  • – What if they notice that I don’t have all the answers?
  • – What if I get emotionally involved when firing someone?
Getting uncomfortable already?How can you prevent this? How can you benefit from your emotional system, (as natural leaders do) without becoming the victim of it?

Who is responsible of you becoming over emotional or aggressive?

Amygdala Hijack
In order to understand how you can benefit from your emotional system, you first have to understand how it works.Your emotional brain, the amygdala and the limbic system of which it’s a key part, is an ancient part of your brain. So old that primitive mammals have their own version of this system.

But as mammals became more complex, an area of the brain called the neocortex developed around the limbic system. The neocortex and particularly the prefrontal cortex in humans, performs an astonishing  array of functions, from deciding which brand of toothpaste to buy, to planning a meeting as for thinking or studying for a test.

If you have ever freaked out and said or done something rash in the”heat of the moment” that you later regretted, you were probably the victim of an amygdala hijack.

Under normal circumstances the prefrontal cortex acts a mediator, taking impulses form the amygdala and deciding whether or not to act on them.

But when you are under a lot of stress (public speaking, annoying colleagues, misbehaving children, traumatic events, …) a short circuit might occur. Your thinking brain (prefrontal cortex) will get bypassed. The signals are sent straight to your amygdala, which results in an over emotional response (out of proportion to the event). Afterwords we realize the inappropriateness of our response and feel bad, guilty or ashamed.

What’s the secret weapon of natural leaders to prevent an emotional hijack?

Prefrontal cortex to the rescue
Natural leaders are capable of managing these amygdala hijack situations. They have a trained prefrontal cortex that is far less bypassed or hijacked. Their frontal lobes are better in switching of unwarranted amygdala alarm signals.Because they know that they can count on there thinking brain at all times, they are not afraid to address their emotional system. Not being afraid to tap into your natural human qualities ( self reflection, vulnerability, compassion, connection), is exactly what makes natural leaders so powerful.

I help people in strengthening their natural leadership by strengthening their thinking brain.

To be effective at controlling our urges and making sound decisions, the prefrontal cortex needs to be looked after. Self control is taken care of in the prefrontal cortex. Like muscles it needs enough energy and oxygen to be able to soothe the fears of the amygdala. You can get better at this through exercise.

Strengthening your prefrontal cortex is easy. I’ll give you some strategies to do so in my next blog. You will notice that they are obvious. The real challenge though lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.

I can help you and your team in overcoming this challenge.

Do you benefit from your emotional system, (as natural leaders do) without becoming the victim of it?

Find out by doing this free SELF – TEST

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook. Thank you!So grateful to have shared this with you!

Live on purpose,


P.S.: Leadership Road to Freedom open training on the 30th of March. For more info and registration click here. Strengthening of your prefrontal cortex guaranteed!

Ann Baeke

Natural Leadership wants to help people, teams and organizations with their self-realization in an authentic and effective way. Self – realization brings freedom. People will feel happier and energized. Their performance increases. 

I put the mission of Natural Leadership –  finding self – realization and the freedom to unlock your full potential – to work by doing two things:

  • First helping leaders in strengthening their personal leadership.
  • Second helping teams and organizations in creating a culture of engagement.

Both reinforce each other and transform people and organizations. Result: Increase in well – being, profit and growth.




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