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Leadership: Take That Reptilian Brain!

Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance. ~ J Donald Walters

I’d like to share one of my favorite stories, The World’s Smartest Man by an unknown author.

A minister, a boy scout, and a computer executive were the only passengers on a airplane. The pilot came back into the cabin and said that the plane was going down. Unfortunately there were only three parachutes and we have four passengers on this flight. The pilot immediately said, "I should have one because I have a wife and three small children." and he jumped. The computer executive said, "I should have one of the parachutes because I am the smartest man in the world and the world still needs me." He jumped. The minister turned to the Boy Scout and said with a sad smile, "You are young and I have lived a good life, so you take the parachute and I'll go down with the plane. "The Boy Scout said, "Relax Reverend, the smartest man in the world just picked up my knapsack and jumped out of the plane."

When it comes to our thought processes, it’s important to understand the following. The human brain is divided into three parts:

  • The Reptilian Area (70%)
  • The Mammal Area (20%)
  • The Academic Area (10%)
  • The reptilian portion of the brain dominates everyone’s feelings, thoughts and emotions. It forces us to act like a reptile. It creates the mindset/reality of the glass being half empty. When the Reptilian Brain is working in full force you feel and act like the victim filled with anger, frustration, selfishness and it’s all about I, I, I… Unfortunately this part of the brain is dominant when we are in a reactive mode and we all know how we have to work hard we have to fight to be proactive. Reactive is simply easier.

    The Mammalian portion of the brain allows us to be an unconditional, caring, giving, and a team player who is family focused putting others first.

    The Academic portion of the brain allows us to be strategic, logical, calculating, and focused.

    Great leaders have the ability to be aware of which part of the brain is in control and guiding their actions . With this awareness they can override the reptilian thoughts, feelings and actions. This is accomplished with a preplanned approach of combining the mammal brain and the academic brain to create a vision, plan, and execution process. When the Reptilian brain tries to take over and it will try, simply put this process into place.

    As in the story of The World’s Smartest Man , this man let his reptilian brain over-ride the correct actions. Instead all he heard was I, I, I….in his reactive “rush” he made a very big mistake.

    This awareness gives all of us hope and inspiration that we can be the individual we were meant to be no matter how powerful the pull to selfishness is. We can train ourselves to lead with our hearts.

    This takes a strong resolve to lead your life with integrity, humility and resilience to inspire others to be the best they can be.

    99.9% of human beings are not monitoring themselves to see which part of the brain is firing. Great leaders understand the importance of making this consciousness a habit. This habit turns into their automatic behaviors which reflect passionately caring for others without struggle.

    By controlling the Reptilian Brain you are able create the future you desire and were meant to live. So, Take that Reptilian Brain!