Saturday, April 01, 2006

Aretha and Feelings

No, don't worry. Aretha Franklin isn't going to sing Feelings.

I attended an interesting presentation Thursday evening at the JCU Dolan Center. The Harvard Business School Club of Cleveland and the John Carroll University Entrepreneur Association brought in Dr. Richard E. Boyatzis for a keynote address. Though based at Weatherhead at case, Boyatzis was described as being better known in Barcelona and London than her in Cleveland - another hidden gem of the city.

The keynote was titled Resonant Leadership: Inspiring the Best in Us. Boyatzis launched into an MP3 of Aretha singing Respect. Then he started clapping and encouraged the audience to stand up and clap. He even jumped up on a front table and clapped along. I love the Queen of Soul but I started looking for the nearest escape route. I’m not into those touchy-feely interactive sessions.

But he soon got down to business. This guy really knows the brain. He said that when we stimulate the limbic system of the brain (like with music or smell) we retain better. Without a limbic stimulus, we have only 40% retention after 3 days. So hum along while you read this.

He spoke about leaders and what makes a great leader (they are not born). He got into the sacrifice of being a leader - the stress it causes - and what that does to our bodies.

One big eye opener for me was the role of feelings. He said that people get convinced of something by emotional arguments and only then does it get reinforced by rational arguments. It takes 8ms for the neurons to travel from the feeling center as compared to 40ms from the rational part of the brain. So feelings don’t just color our thoughts, they determine them.

History is full of examples of evil people using this to gain followers. Of course, good leaders use it too.

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