Lizards Can’t Be Leaders

Home/Professional Communication/Lizards Can’t Be Leaders

Lizards Can’t Be Leaders

Have you noticed that lizards are never leaders?  Other reptiles or animals do not follow the lizard.  Lizards don’t even follow other lizards.  Instead, lizards seem to dart around following only their own genetic instincts for survival.  It’s impossible to be a lizard and a leader at the same time.

Each of us has a lizard brain.  A fight-or-flight, instinctual part of our brain called the amygdala.  It is part of the limbic system, a system known for being all about emotion, instinct, and decision-making, based on our feelings.  The amygdala portion of our limbic system kicks into high gear when we are stressed, overloaded, angry, and fearful.  An activated amygdala shuts down our brain’s center for higher thinking, the neocortex.  The amygdala hijacks our abilities to be rational, to think strategically, to see and hear all arguments about impending danger, and to focus enough to listen to the people around us who have our best interests at heart.  The amygdala does this so that we do what is exactly required at the moment, fight or take flight.  The amygdala sends a rush of adrenalin needed to lift heavy objects off of a fallen child.  The amygdala is our friend, indeed.

The culture of our every day lives at home and/or work, is filled with tension and fear-inducing moments.  Most of us allow too much of our week to be stressful, dangerous, on-the-edge, demanding, and hypercritical.  When we live too many of our days in such a worked-up, has-to-happen-now, be-done-with-it state of mind, our amygdala stays activated and shuts down the neocortex (that beautiful part of our brain responsible for rational thought, judgement, and decision making).  The result being a chronic inability to be intentionally present and to listen.  This then leads to business mistakes, at the very least and to destruction of relationships, at worst.  It is impossible to be a leader in such a state.

News flash: Did you know that fight-or-flight and rational thought are opposable systems? That’s right! Activate your rational thought processes and your brain automatically shuts down the fight-or-flight response from the amygdala (lizard brain).

We have to choose a better response to the stressors in our lives.  We have to choose to put systems and techniques in place that allow us to consciously quiet our amygdala and use our higher brains.  We have to choose to focus on the people we value and to listen to them, to “hear through” so much every day noise.  It’s a conscious effort.  It’s a conscious effort to become aware that we are overly stressed and causing stress for others.  And then it takes a conscious effort to get focused, ask the right questions, watch the body language of others, and really listen (with all senses).  Making this a priority is leadership at it’s finest.

What’s been your state of mind over the past few weeks?  Are you aware of your stressors and are you employing techniques and strategies which enable you to listen and to foster important relationships? Are you ready to learn how to shut down the amygdala and engage your neocortex intentionally?  We’ve got the steps.  Contact us!

About the Author:

Ellen Dunnigan founded Accent On Business in 2001 specializing in public speaking, communication skills, and executive presence for leaders in business. She has 25 years of experience with professional and nonprofessional speakers in healthcare, media, politics, engineering, sports, and other industries. Ellen’s coaching in speaking skills gives established and emerging leaders greater confidence and credibility. Her leadership programs in accountability, alignment, difficult conversations, and organizational communication have helped leaders expand their influence. Ellen is known for her practical “how to” style.
Back to Top