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So what kind of leader will you be?

These days, you get dozens of results by searching for “leadership” and “economic crisis” on Google. The same happens when searching for “leadership” and “downsizing”. The general consensus is clear: during challenging times, individuals look to their leaders for inspiration, guidance and reassurance. But leaders are also the first to be blamed when things go wrong and people start losing their jobs.

The Telegraph suggests that the “Financial crisis calls for confident leadership”. Similarly, the Washing Post informs that a “Financial Crisis Offers a Study in Leadership Styles”.

It seems that Leadership is, yet again, at the centre of anything that is good and bad when it comes to the heart of the business. Lack of courage, reckless decision making, greed and dishonesty are some of the sins that leaders of today are said to be guilty of.

So what should leaders do in these critical times? The economic downturn is the ultimate test for those in charge and only the individuals that are most equipped with skills can maximise their chance of keeping their seats until the end of the rollercoaster ride. On the positive side, however, it is known that Leaders need not be responsible for their own demise. Through coaching and the development of self-awareness, leaders can learn how to avoid over-extending themselves and be able to make a conscious decision to not “cross the line” when compromised – the line that takes them to the unpopular side of business.

Leaders of today may not be the leaders of tomorrow. Much of the territory we are exploring today is of an unchartered nature. And perhaps, through a Darwinian lens, we may hypothesise that only the fittest, the strongest and the wisest may able to survive. We also suggest flexibility and adaptability as essential skills for effective and successful leadership.
And ultimately, of course, the building of self-awareness through coaching and development.

So, what kind of Leader will you be?

Andrea Facchini

Business Psychologist

Mentis Consulting Limited
1 Lyric Square
London W6 0NB
United Kingdom

T: +44 (0)870 487 3100
M: +44 (0)75349 06322
F: +44 (0)870 487 3101

E: andrea.facchini@mentis-consulting.com
W: www.mentis-consulting.com

Just sleep on it and make better decisions

Just sleep on it and the solution will come

I suppose many have read about recent research led by a leading expert on the benefits of napping at the University of California that suggests that Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep enhances creative problem-solving. At last now when I get caught sleeping on the job I have the perfect excuse. The study by Sara Mednick and Denise Cai graduate student in the UC San Diego Department of Psychology showed that REM directly enhances creative processing more than any other sleep or wake state.

“We found that — for creative problems that you’ve already been working on — the passage of time is enough to find solutions,” said Mednick. “However, for new problems, only REM sleep enhances creativity.”

The reason why taking a nap or leaving a problem for a while works has been researched for many years – and there is indeed evidence that leaving a problem then returning to it later does lead to the solution or more creative ideas emerging. As far as the REM sleep part is concerned it is likely to be a correlational finding and not related to the cause and effect of what they observed.

I like this idea but I think a clearer reason for this effect from information processing theory perspective is the way the brain divides up a problem during solution generation. In the initial representation of the problem the issues are encoded in working memory and a solution strategy worked out usually drawing on longer term constructs in memory from the last time the problem was faced (say). This initial solution strategy in working memory is what we typically use to first tackle the problem – and using this strategy more detail is fleshed out and the problem becomes clearer and more closely defined. This more detailed nature of the problem becomes stored in Long Term Memory.

If we leave a problem for a while, sleep on it say, the initial working memory solution gets forgotten – working memory being more volatile – whilst the more detailed knowledge of the problem gets retained in Long Term Memory. When we return to the problem we remember all the enhanced details of the problem but have to re-construct and make up a new approach to solving ‘it’. As we have more detailed understanding of the problem to be solved a better approach emerges – almost magically. So it is likely that those who take a break from a problem and return to it later are able to solve ‘it’ more effectively due to a process of selective ‘forgetting’ of the initial attempt at a solution.

Thus this is where a strategy of self-regulating your approach to tackling a problem can win dividends. What you have to do is rather than going on with a problem until the bitter end is say to yourself – ‘hold on I am going to do something else for a while and do this tomorrow’. What this implies that in some circumstances to procrastinate and delay is actually the best strategy to solve a difficult problem and going on when you are banging your head against a wall is a fruitless exercise.

Royston

Royston

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