March 9, 2014 Leave a comment
Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:
Warren Bennis, one of the most respected authorities on leadership in the world, said: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” On the surface, this sounds perfunctory. But when we examine this more deeply, several important implications arise. If leadership is the ability to translate vision into reality, what is the method to do this? One way, according to the latest research, is to use our brains to optimize our chances of success.
There is now incontrovertible evidence that imagining a movement will stimulate the movement areas in the brain. This technique has been used when helping people with stroke to begin moving and to help elite athletes optimize their pre-competition training. The recent example of the detailed visualization of Mikaela Shiffrin leading to a gold medal in the Olympic slalom is one such case in point. This evidence suggests that to reach your goals first write them down, and then determine different possible ways of achieving them. Then, close your eyes and imagine yourself following those paths. Imagination “warms up” the action brain and “jump starts” your brain. This technique can be especially helpful if you are procrastinating or stuck.
But, as easy as it sounds, simply closing your eyes and imagining yourself accomplishing a goal or leading a team to do so may feel challenging for a number of reasons. Many of my clients, for example, have asked: “What if I don’t feel confident enough to imagine? What if I have missed my targets for several quarters, and trying to imagine getting to my goal is anxiety-provoking?”