Leaders: Your Amazing Brain!


Two bits of news from the animal kingdom have caught my eye over the past couple of weeks.

On Leadership and…

…Pigeon Brains

First, a group of researchers recently found that pigeons use only 53 neurons to sense the direction and strength of the Earth’s magnetic field.  I don’t know about you but I find that pretty amazing—given that I’ve often been told about how small the pigeon’s brain was and as a result it wasn’t quite as bright as the other birds. 

And, to tell the truth, it is pretty unsettling given the size of the human brain visa-vi a pigeon’s and my appalling sense of direction…


Second, recent enhancements in anthropological dating techniques suggest that  Neanderthals may have been the originators of the world’s oldest cave art. They left their mark in Spanish caves in El Castillo.  They actually made hand prints by blowing pigment against their hands while they were on the wall. 

One can’t help but wonder—what does it all mean?

Now Back to Pigeons

Perhaps with the pigeon, it’s a sign of a natural gift—and a well honed neural pathway. Imagine 53 cells that enable a bird to take flight, soar through the skies, stop atop a couple of statues, and find its way home.

Fifty-three cells that create a type of virtual GPS!   

And some pigeons are even more amazing. They are known for their homing ability—flying at speeds of up to 50 mph and covering up to 600 miles before returning home.

And on to the Cave Men

There are lots of stories I can spin about the handprints;

  • I’m sure many anthropologists could prove me wrong—but isn’t’ that what just happened to them?
  • Is it early evidence of man’s appreciation of art, of absurdity (a creative fluke when attempting to overcome boredom one day), a desire to leave one’s mark, or a collective ritual of some sort? 

Regardless, again a creature with limited cognitive capacity has the world a’ wonderin’.

I’m always amazed when I learn something new about the brain.  And this appears to be the decade the whole thing will be cracked open—literally. 

On Just Leadership

While I’m not a neuroscientist, I can’t shake these two stories.  Two leadership questions haunt me:

1) With our brain so far more developed, would another species look at our “handprints” relative to the marks we have left on the people we have been entrusted to lead with the same wonder? 

2) Fifty-three cells and a primitive brain up against an 80 billion-cell highly advanced and evolved brain.  Are we truly that impressive in setting the direction, staying the course and arriving safely?

A gazillion cells ready to be deployed and put to work, yet many of us run on autopilot each day.

Our challenge as leaders is to find time and space to dabble with the unknown, set a new direction, stay the course and along the way leave “handprints” of innovative leadership practices that trust, respect and honor followers.   

Perhaps in doing so, we’ll tap into our innate brain power, wake up and leave our mark on history.

What do you make of it all?

Rosaria (Ria) Hawkins, PhDis a the president of Take Charge Consultants
She helps leaders & organizations build mindful strategies that ensure long-term success
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog

Image Sources: freewallpapercollection.com


One response to “Leaders: Your Amazing Brain!

  1. Pingback: Leadership updates for 06/20/2012·

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