Healthy Addictions for Leaders

There was a great post yesterday on the HBR Blog about how leaders can become chemically addicted to being right, and the dangers that poses.  When we’re in a tense meeting and trying to make a decision, or deal with opposing points of view in some way, our higher level reasoning skills can be instinctively hijacked by our brain’s amygdala, reducing the scenario to the classic “fight or flight.”    

Judith Glaser explains the various neurochemicals that our bodies release for protection when we are in tense situations, and why, when we end up “winning” the fight or “being right,” our bodies are rewarded with dopamine and adrenaline, which make us feel good, and reward our successful “fight,” creating the chemical addiction to being right.

But the fight approach isn’t all that successful for building productive long-term relationships, and the best part of Glaser’s article provides suggestions on how to break the addiction to being right.

  1. Set rules of engagement, to encourage productive discussion from the very beginning.
  2. Listen with empathy, trying hard to listen more and talk less.
  3. Plan who speaks, and use open-ended questions.

The net result?  According to Glaser, oxytocin is released by human connection, and it increases our ability to be more open and trusting.  Creating that kind of environment when difficult issues are on the table is an “addiction” worth pursuing.



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