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Attentional Intelligence is Critical in Leadership

This blog is the first in a series, in which we will explain the 3rd Intelligence ‘Attentional Intelligence’ – a key component of our Human-Centred Brain-Based Leadership Model™. In coming blogs, we will explore 10 key future capabilities we see as crucial workplace competencies needed now and why an understanding of the brain is so important for developing these capabilities.

Attentional Intelligence is the key intelligence critical to leadership success

We all know how important emotional and social intelligences are for leadership success. And you’ve probably experienced first-hand at some time what it is like to work under or alongside someone with low emotional or social intelligence, and how challenging that can be. Leaders who lack self-awareness and empathy negatively impact upon our engagement, our motivation and even our health!

But we believe there is a critical 3rd intelligence that is required if we are going to build the workforce capabilities required by 2020 and beyond. Whilst some people are cottoning onto the idea there might be another important 3rd intelligence it is still not featuring in leadership development programs or key competencies.

My own struggle with focus and attention led me to the conclusion that there is a crucial intelligence which is critical to leadership success. I call this ‘Attentional Intelligence’ (AI), a term I coined in 2012 and which I believe is THE third intelligence critical to leadership success.

Attentional Intelligence is ‘an intelligence that when highly developed allows you to effortlessly but ‘mindfully’ notice where your attention is at any moment and to intentionally decide where you want it to be’.

The components of Attentional Intelligence are described in this clip.

We live in an unprecedented time of busyness, leading to overwhelm, overload and rising stress in many of our workers and now even showing in young people. Our attention is a limited resource, yet we are constantly working in environments or in ways that treat it as though it is unlimited.

We are pushed to work harder and longer and then wonder why we feel brain dead before lunch time or by the afternoon we are craving that sugary ‘hit’. The growth in technology required to complete office tasks is constantly changing and evolving, requiring constant and regular training just to stay-up-to-date in our roles.

Is your brain exhausted?

Our attention is constantly seduced by an ever-evolving digital world that constantly interrupts and vies for our attention (See blog on How technology is reshaping our brains). And as we are biologically programmed to notice any novelty, our limited attention is being increasingly consumed by our digital devices.

Our brains are exhausted! All this task-switching, constantly and rapidly, without downtime is creating exhausted brains. If you have an exhausted brain you don’t make good decisions, can’t innovate or find solutions to challenges and inevitably means you miss important cues from your interactions with others that may support you to access your Emotional or Social Intelligence.

As a result, mindfulness/meditation programs have become a billion-dollar business with many companies investing in their people by putting them through such programs. And for good reason, there’s lots of research which provides evidence about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. It is absolutely a practice that supports us in managing our stress and overwhelm and I believe important in supporting us to build our Attentional Intelligence, but this intelligence is about so much more than finding a quiet room to undertake a quiet mid-day meditation break. It’s simply treating the symptom… not the cause.

Are you in the driver seat of your brain?

We need to get back in the driver seat of our attention and regain control of it all-day, not just in moments where we remember to engage in a mindfulness activity. In essence, we need to understand how the brain works so our productivity is harnessed – not hampered.

When we started delivering our Diploma of Neuroscience of Leadership program over six years ago, we already knew the importance of Attentional Intelligence. Throughout this series, we will share why we believe this is a 3rd intelligence is a game-changer for today’s leaders and our leaders of tomorrow.

If you’re interested in improving your productivity, reducing your stress and developing your 3rd intelligence contact us now for information about our programs and individual coaching sessions.

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