God gave us a magnificent creation called the brain.Weighing less than three pounds, it wields incredible influence over how well leaders lead. Although we usually call the brain a computer, it’s more like a pharmacy that constantly dispenses drugs (hormones and neurotransmitters) into our bodies and brains which affect our emotions, our thinking, and our leadership. A new field called neuroleadership is helping leaders understand how brain function relates to leadership. It’s a burgeoning field pastors and leaders should pay attention to. My most recent book, Brain-Savvy Leaders: the Science of Significant Ministry, intersects brain science with biblical principles on leadership.
Are your hormones hijacking your leadership?
Brain researchers have discovered that sustained high levels of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline affect our ability to think clearly, creatively, and decisively, thus diminishing our ability to lead most effectively.
And how do sustained high levels of these hormones get into our system?
They get there from chronic anxiety, when we face long-term stress. It’s akin to a car accelerator getting stuck and revving at high rpm’s for a long period of time. If it continues, the engine will wear out prematurely. In the same way when leaders and pastors stay stressed 24/7, their anxiety, and thus their hormones, get stuck at a high level which dramatically reduces their ability to lead.
Take this simple assessment to discover how many chronic anxiety markers are currently in your life.
- I react and act impulsively when people disagree with me.
- I assume the worst and connect dots where there are none.
- I easily get defensive.
- I don’t seem to be as creative as I once was.
- I often find myself in a mental and emotional fog.
- I lose perspective easily.
- I don’t listen well to others, not because I don’t want to, but because my mind wanders and can’t focus.
- I find it difficult to concentrate.
- I find that others often mirror my defensiveness and reactivity.
How many markers did you find?
If more than two, your hormone accelerator is probably stuck and you aren’t leading at your best. The solution to reducing stress can be a bit complicated. But a wise pastor once advised me to regular take breaks. He shared these three simple statements that have helped me keep my stress hormones in check.
- Divert Daily (take time out to reflect and be still before God every day).
- Withdraw Weekly (take a weekly sabbath).
- Abandon Annually (take a vacation every year when you truly disconnect).
How have you kept your stress hormones under control?