How to Be a Great Leader from Today, Backed by Science

People are rarely born great leaders. For most of us, it requires a great deal of hard work. Does it pay off? Definitely! It will take some time until you feel on par with Richard Branson, but daily practice, which I am going to introduce you to, will change the way you and your employees work together. As a result, you will increase general resilience in your team and create a happier working environment.

I really admire the work of Dr. Sven Hansen from the Resilience Institute. Recently I watched his talk on the role of leadership in enabling resilience in the team. He illustrates how important it is to cultivate daily habits to uplift your entire team – but beforehand a thorough reality check is needed, hence ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where am I?
  • What do I need to do to gain altitude?
  • Where are my people?
  • How do I lift my people?

Let’s face it. Your job is stressful, you have temptations to act out all of your emotions. You can get angry or fed-up, but you also know that screaming at your employees won’t help anyone. How to avoid these situations and stay calm?

Learn to breathe

Deep breathing is a proven stress-reducing method that triggers opposite response to stress, what Dr. Herbert Benson, a professor at Harvard Medical School, calls the relaxation response. By applying such a simple technique as deep breathing, which results in relaxing your muscles you can change the way your body and mind respond to any situation.

High intensive exercise

Many scientific studies have proven that high intensive exercise has a positive impact on your health. According to a study conducted by The University Of Missouri-Colombia, high intensive exercise is the best way to reduce stress levels and anxiety that may lead to heart diseases. According to researchers high intensive workouts is especially beneficial to women.


It might be tempting to work longer hours to get more done. Surprisingly this approach decreases your overall performance. As Drs. Stuart Quan and Russel Sanna from Harvard Medical School say: “Sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher cognitive functions: the combination of these factors is what we generally to refer as mental performance.” One of the greatest entrepreneurs nowadays, Arianna Huffington, became a sleep evangelist. She talks about the importance of sleeping, her own experience with sleep deprivation and sleep habits she developed in the book Thrive. You can start with keeping your smartphones far away from your bed and implement a “no-screen”-rule two hours before going to bed.


Leaders who show happiness on their faces are much more effective in negotiations. Researchers found that even fake smiling can reduce your stress levels and contribute to your overall happiness. Dr. Paul Ekman in his research in 1990 found that “Duchenne smile” – a full smile involving muscles around the eyes – has the ability to change brain activity that is linked to happier mood. Remember the old wise saying “Fake it till you make it!” and give the world a big smile. You will eventually feel better and your smile will become more genuine.

Open up your empathy portal

According to Dr. Sven Hansen “Empathy is the ability to attune ourselves to others; defined by the expression of behaviors:

  1. Giving your full attention to someone
  2. Detecting and interpreting non-verbal cues
  3. Acknowledging others’ perspectives
  4. Understanding another’s felt experience”

Being empathetic is essential for leadership, Dr. Hansen suggests these steps to show more empathy to your employees.

  • Pay attention and be there. Keep your eyes open and see what is happening in your team.
  • Learn emotional clues. It’s time to pay attention to details and spot micro expressions on the faces of your team members. They usually last for only a fraction of a second and happens when a person conceals a feeling. Micro expressions can’t be faked. There are 7 universal micro expressions: disgust, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise and contempt. Dr. Paul Ekman has conducted great research on this topic.
  • Be present. Keep your monkey brain at the bay. Your mind might wander from time to time. Aim to be present when you are dealing with your team. Let your thoughts fade away and focus on people around you.
  • Learn to watch your mind. Yes, you can do it and it doesn’t have to be a fight between you and your mind. There are many techniques that can help you to control your always wandering mind. Start practicing meditation. To begin start installing an app such as Headspace, Calm or Omvana on your smart phone and start spending 10 minutes a day meditating.

Ultimately, resilience is all about building capacity. Let me know which practice you feel you have to work on?

By |January 10th, 2016|Categories: Leadership, Resilience|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

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