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Tips on Smart Family Leadership

When the family friend of Dustin Hoffman’s character in the 1960s film The Graduate took the young man aside to offer him career advice, he had just one word of advice for the young man: “Plastics.” If there were to be one word I’d offer leaders of family businesses today, it would be “Neuroplastics,” for the discovery of the plasticity of the human brain has revolutionized not only modern neuroscience, but also leadership science.

Breakthroughs in understanding the plasticity, or changeability, of our brains shed new light on how the human brain functions and how our minds actually influence our brains, behaviors and important relationships. These exciting discoveries offer pearls of wisdom for leaders of family enterprises—new approaches for leading change, inspiring and motivating others, and adapting to new circumstances.

Contrary to former understandings of brain development as being “fixed” by adulthood, we now know the human brain is to some extent reshaped and restructured throughout our lifespans. Furthermore, we can and do influence the development of these new brain structures, both in ourselves and one another.

Considering the roles and functions commonly associated with effective leadership in family enterprises (such as clarifying vision and communicating clearly, inspiring change and motivating for the long haul), we see how neuroscience illuminates how we can harness the power of the brain for these tasks.

How can family leaders apply these insights?

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