Engagement is the first essential component of Meaning-Centered Leadership. Our research indicated that followers want a leader who creates an environment where trusting relationships can take place. Neuroscience researchers have uncovered something surprisingly simple, “If you treat me well, my brain will synthesize OT (oxytocin) and this will motivate me to reciprocate.” It turns out the Golden Rule is supported by this simple biological fact. Caring and empathy will help your organization develop a culture that increases OT for its followers. The current of trust will in turn build engagement and optimize opportunities for individual and organizational performance.
Empowerment is the second essential component of Meaning-Centered Leadership. Our research uncovered that meaning and its transformative powers are unleashed when followers experience a sense of belonging to something much bigger than themselves. The good news is that neuroscience has found that shared group membership is not static. Group membership is a negotiation between leaders and followers. In the report, The Neuroscience of Inspirational Leadership, the authors describe how leaders create a shared sense of organizational belonging: Leaders enhance psychological engagement with messages when they, “…embed a sense that they share social identity with would-be followers.”
The final essential element of Meaning-Centered Leadership is Expertise comprising wisdom, optimism, and humility. A wise leader understands the implication of universal principles such as the Golden Rule. They maintain optimism in the face of challenges and help their followers maintain the same perspective. Lastly, they are humble. The good news from neuroscience is that humility can be strengthened. Appreciating others promotes gratitude. Feelings of gratitude have been linked to dopamine release. This in turns activates feelings of happiness and positive mood regulation. The ability to practice humility, empathy, and compassion, helps develop what neuroscientists call social cognition. Without social cognition and the regular practice of humility and gratitude, it is easy for leaders to create a toxic work environment. In that case, the ability to make meaning is lost.