Why Is Hebian Theory Critical To Leadership Training?

In this article we are going to dive into a purely neuroscience topic that is key for leadership training.  We’ll start with why we’re going to learn about it. I believe that leaders need to be in brilliant shape for leading themselves before they lead other people. Leading yourself comes first then others come second. In order to lead yourself really well is you need to understand how your mind is working and for most people it this is going to be trial & error.

You can find yourself trying something to see if it works well and perhaps it does, then trying something else and perhaps it doesn’t work too well. It can be a semi conscious process over the years or it can be purely an unconscious process for years. This is what many leadership trainings teach, the result of trial and error.  There are phenomenal leaders out there, many of whom don’t know anything about neuroscience and how their brain works but they are getting wonderful results.

The whole process could speed up for them if they knew what was happening at each stage. They’d still want to do the experimental learning that they’re doing because that provides a huge amount of information for them. We’d still want them to do it because it provides information for us to then create experiments around to understand what is actually happening in neuroscience.  It goes both ways in terms of one side learning from the other.

What we’re going to look at is one of the fundamentals of neuroscience that is valuable for leadership training. The Hebian theory is very wonderfully coined in the phrase “cells that fire together, wire together”.  In our brain we’ve got cells just like in the rest of our

body and the cells in the brain are called neurons, which are basically specialized brain cells. The way that they communicate to one another is either chemically or electricity and we can imagine them sending these signals to one another.  Imagine a racing track, a track that’s never been driven on before, but the first quad bike is very excited to drive around and this track that he is going to create. The first track that he does can be a little trickier than the second laps because the ground hasn’t been molded in for it’s the first time so the first lap is going to set the tack off. The second time he goes around it’ll be easier because he’s got grooves to follow and on the third time and so on the ground is getting grooved in.

This is a great likeness to what happens in the brain when a cell fires the first communication it’s being communicated and the second & third time something is communicated along the pathway it becomes a much more heavily grooved pathway and it becomes much more substantial & easier for subsequent communications to go through that path.  We love experiential examples in leadership trainings, so an example of this would be thoughts, some people have thoughts repeatedly and you may have thoughts yourself take for example “Friday is fantastic”. A lot of people share this thought and they think on a regular basis that Friday is great because that means it’s almost a weekend. This thought has gone around a few times so now it’s easy to have that thought that Friday is fantastic. An experience has further deepened those thoughts that Fridays are brilliant. It’s how they think and it becomes a second nature & becomes really true to them. This is exactly how the brain works.

The reason that we want to know that this is how the brain works is because imagine if you have thoughts, beliefs or ways of thinking about things that is not as positive as ‘Friday is fantastic’, imagine if ‘Mondays are terrible’ is a common thought for someone.  From what we know about actions relying heavily on what our mind is doing this is dangerous ground. From our minds telling us that ‘Mondays are terrible’, we’re going to get out of bed in the morning in a different way than on Fridays. We’re going to drive to work with different thoughts going through our mind than on a Friday. We’re going to be in a mood and state that is different on Mondays than it is on Fridays.

Subsequently the actions we take and the results that we get can be substantially different on a Monday than on Friday. This is just a trivial example but it’s very transferrable and there are a lot of situations where the understanding of how our thought and ways that we can now think have come to be is useful because it gives us the ability to change them, so the power to create reality in a lot of ways and the way that you want it to be.  If you need to have Mondays where you’re in a peek condition, working optimally and getting great results then you need to make sure that you programmed  in that way. Leadership training needs to teach you what is really going on so you have the power to change it.

I recently met a wonderful gentleman who is running the chambers in Birmingham and he loves his work. I get the impression that although Mondays could be a bad day for him occasionally, the result of how he thinks about everything means that he has great results, his a wonderful leader, he’s being productive and driving things forward in a way that he wants them to go. Understanding that the power of our mind and the power of Hebian theory and how our brains actually work is very important in leadership training because it gives you the power to change things and to get the results that you want to working with your brain rather than just hoping that it’s going in the right direction.

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