Developing Neuroleadership-based National Innovators

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Prof. Dr. Taruna Ikrar
Prof. Dr. Taruna Ikrar Chairman of the Indonesian Medical Council (KKI), Director of the International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities (IAMRA)

Jakarta, IO – Indonesia is a vast country, one predicted to have the fourth-largest economy by 2050 – a leap from its eighth position in 2016. But before that, Indonesia will be in fifth position by 2030. This forecast was made by a world-leading consulting firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), which cited data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to PWC, Indonesia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016 reached USD 3 trillion and will hike to USD 5.4 and USD 10.5 trillion in 2030 and 2050, respectively. Indonesia’s economy in 2030 will surpass that of Russia and Brazil, and in 2050 it will take over Japan’s rank. The three largest economies above Indonesia to be on top of the chart will be China, India and the United States. 

Achieving this rapid progress, however, will require great leaders. Leadership of national innovators can be observed from a neuroscience perspective, known as “neuroleadership”. 

A Growth Mindset 

Scientific facts entertain new hopes in almost all aspects of human life, including leadership. If an individual can learn and develop without limits, so can a community, organization or even a nation. If an individual can change and develop for the better, a community, organization, or nation can also become better. But that begs the questions: are the community and organization aware of this possibility? Do they know where to point development? 

In the leadership arena, the above ideas present both challenges and opportunities. A leader (ideally) should realize his potential for change and development. But, he must also be able to build awareness of those people in his community and organization, both the potential and direction of the development. Many leaders seem to have adopted a new mantra: to be able to accelerate change and development, everyone needs to have a growth mindset. Everyone must believe they have a shot at unlimited growth and development. 

This confronts a leader with the mentality of the individuals he leads, thinking created from experience, education, a life story and environment. In reality, some people already have a growth mentality and mindset. They are optimistic about the future because they believe a better future can be achieved together. On the other hand, some people have a fixed mindset and tend to shut themselves off from new possibilities. 

The word “tend” is used because no one has a 100% growth mindset or a 100% fixed mindset. This should be highlighted, as many leaders often have this misconception. Some even believe the classification is so mechanical that a switch process from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset can be made. “If that’s the case, everything will be easy,” said David Rock, the founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute. “But the reality is not that simple. In a person, there are both fixed-mindsets and growth-mindsets.” 

Leading the Transformation 

David Rock seems to be right on point. Every human being has both the tendency to change and not to change. This involves both mental attitude and way of thinking (mindset). However, at the same time, we realize that the growth mentality and mindset will lead us to a new reality that we dream of, the new reality of Indonesia Maju (Onward Indonesia). Therein lies the tasks of a leader. A leader must be able to (1) make people aware of the need to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset and (2) lead the transformation himself. 

Using hijrah (transformational) terminology, neuroleadership recognizes an “ignorance state (jahiliyyah)” that needs to be realized and contemplated. By default, humans will work with their emotional, or reptilian, brain. When deciding or responding to something, the first thing coming into view is the logic of their emotions. The selection process is based more on factors of “likes” or “dislikes” . Rational reasons usually follow later, more as a means of justification. 

The emotional brain is the most primordial part of the brain. In general, it is responsible for survival. Therefore, it perceives matters from only two sides: threat or opportunity. 

Whereas humans, or homo sapiens, have a modern brain: the conscious brain or a thinking brain. Despite its relatively small volume, the conscious brain distinguishes humans from other living creatures. This part of the brain allows people to have self-awareness, a value system and an ability to differentiate between good and evil. It can even make people think transcendentally, that is, thinking about matters beyond what the senses can perceive. The modern brain brings people to a stage of wisdom.