A Leader’s Brain Hijacked

4 min readNov 6, 2017


Neuro-Leadership Tips:

…Leader’s brain hijacked….
Imagine reading that headline as it scrolls across your CNN news hour. What would you think?

Maybe you would think, “This must be the work of some evil scientist or an invading alien race”.

In truth, the leader’s brain may have been hijacked by a small change in her/his environment.

Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant.”

So why do we fight so hard against it?

As someone who has spent most of my life in some form of a leadership position, I am going to give it to you straight. If you are going to step up and really be a leader, you are going to have to embrace change! However, I’ll admit there’s an important part of your brain that doesn’t like change!

Recent research shows that human brains have evolved with a strong capacity to detect what neuroscientists call “errors.”

These are not errors in the traditional way we think of errors, for instance, as mistakes: “I miscalculated, so therefore this is an error.” Errors in this context are anything that is a perceived difference between what you expected and what occurs in reality. For instance, scientific research shows that when someone is told to expect a sweet-tasting treat, but when they put it into their mouth and discover that it tastes salty or bitter, their brain goes crazy.

The brain produces intense bursts of neural firing that are markedly stronger than the firing caused by familiar stimuli. A study run by Dr. Edmund Rolls of Oxford University found that the “errors” that produce these intense bursts of neural firing are generated by a part of the brain called the orbital frontal cortex.

Now you may be thinking, “What’s that, and why should I care?”

Well, if you want greater levels of success, you will want to turn up the brightness in your eyes and here’s why.

The orbital frontal cortex is the part of the brain that is closely connected to the brain’s fear circuitry. Neuroscientific errors (or incorrect assessments) evoke a fear response in your brain!

The fear circuitry is housed in a structure called the amygdala, and the amygdala is the source of that sudden and overwhelming fear or anger response that can come up when we are faced with change. The kind of response where you might later say, “I have no idea what came over me.” This is your brain on fear!

These parts of your brain are among the oldest parts of the mammal brain. What’s important about that is that when they are activated, they draw energy away from the prefrontal region of the brain, which is the section said to promote and support higher intellectual functions.

So what does all that have to do with you and your ability to reach higher level of leadership and success?

Well, my friend, change by its very nature is outside of the familiar. Therefore change, even if it is for the better is going to be firing off those “error detection signals.”

These signals invariably push the individual to become emotional and to act more impulsively.

Most often, the result is fear and anger in the face of change. When you observe such a response, you may have the sense that the individual’s brain has been hijacked and some kind of animal instincts have taken over.

As I started out saying — If you are going to step up and really be a leader, you are going to have to embrace change!

You will never reach that higher level of success while allowing your brain to run error messages every time a new opportunity shows up.

“Our problem is not to be rid of fear but, rather to harness and master it.” Martin Luther King Jr.

I trust that you found this article valuable. If so feel free to send this to your friends. I eagerly anticipate your feedback and comments.

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With gratitude,
Dov Baron…

Copyright: Dov Baron International 2020




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