Archive for February 25th, 2014

There are some findings in primatology that have some bearing here.  In chimp troops, the leader is at the center of the troop and is taking in information from all sides, from the male chimps at the edges of the troop, guarding and surveying, and from the females and the young.  In fact, the attention structure of a primate group, not the distribution of resources, will tell you who is the leader.  It’s not who gets the most bananas — it’s who gets looked at.  Every 30 seconds or so, the chimps are orienting to the leader.  If the leader’s central nervous system isn’t really calm, the other chimps get agitated and can’t do their jobs.
How the leader maintains his calm is what’s really interesting. Mike McGuire, who is at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, has done some work with monkeys and serotonin, the compound that produces a sense of calm and well-being and confidence.  It turns out that leader primates have decisively high levels of serotonin.  McGuire’s first notion was that leaders are born with elevated serotonin levels.  But that turned out not to be the case.  He found that when he removed the leaders from their troops, their serotonin levels crashed to well below the norm.  Then, once a new leader emerged, its serotonin level started climbing until it was twice that of the other primates.  An elevated level appears to be an adaptation to the stresses and uncertainties of the leadership role.  And it’s an adaptation that benefits the troop as well as the leader.  The distinguishing characteristic of leaders is the quality of their central nervous system in a crisis.  And serotonin enables the central nervous system to handle stress and ambiguity.
  —  Lionel Tiger
The Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University
From the book: “Harvard Business Review On Becoming a High Performance Manager
The specific chapter (“All in a Day’s Work“) is a group discussion moderated by Harris Collingwood and Julia Kirby
On This Day In:
2013 Location, Location, Location
2012 Are You Really Good?
2011 Relatively Objective, Anyway

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