OB330/OB331 Leadership Fellows: Coaching & Neuroscience

Professor: Brian Lowery, Ricki Frankel and Hugh Keelan

Coaching & Neuroscience

Betz, Ann. 2012. Co-Active Coaching and the Brain: Neuroscience Research Supports the Efficacy of the Co-Active Model. coactive.com

This article explores the many powerful links between the Co-Active Model®, applied successfully for 20 years to coaching, and some of the scientific research that suggests why this methodology of coaching is highly effective and produces transformative results.

Boyatzis, Richard E. 2012. Neuroscience and the Link Between Inspirational Leadership and Resonant Relationships. Ivy Business Journal, January/February.

"Relationships," says a dejected Alvy Singer, Woody Allen's character in the movie, Annie Hall. "Who needs them." The fact is that every leader needs to have smooth, productive relationships with those around him or her. But what makes for a rewarding relationship - and its opposite - has long been unclear or unknown. This author, who has conducted and written extensively about the impact of brain activity on such relationships, describes some important, new observations that hold the promise of helping leaders to form more effective relationships.

Boyatzis, Richard E. 2011. Neuroscience and Leadership: the Promise of Insights. Ivy Business Journal, January/February.

Emerging findings in neuroscience research suggest why inspiring and supportive relationships are important — they help activate openness to new ideas and a more social orientation to others. Insights such as these, this author writes, may move the primacy of a leader’s actions away from the often proselytized “resultsorientation” toward a relationship orientation. Readers will learn about this and other important findings in neuroscience that have the potential to tell us what we need to know to be good, even great leaders.

Boyatzis, Richard E., Melvin L. Smith and Nancy Blaize. 2006. Developing Sustainable Leaders Through Coaching and Compassion. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 5(1):8-24

The article focuses on a holistic approach to developing leaders and the argument that compassionate coaching leads to sustainable leadership. It is suggested that chronic power stress associated with the leadership role is reduced by the experience of developing others, a process which can produce a psychophysiological effect that promotes natural healing and growth. The significance of coaching in a leader's effectiveness is discussed, as well as the implications for management education and leadership-development programs.

Hamill, Peter. 2011. Embodied Leadership: Towards a New Way of Developing Leaders. Strategic HR Review,, 10(5):5-10

Not rigorous research, but thought provoking. The paper critiques common practice in leadership d3evelopment with a view to suggesting an alternative approach based on neuroscience. 

Findings – Current leadership development practice relies heavily on the use of models and theories, and the development of self-awareness. The paper uses findings from neuroscience to question whether these approaches produce sustainable changes. These findings suggest that models and theories do not impact the regions of the brain required for behavioral change. They also suggest that self-awareness, while an essential starting point, may not be enough. The paper goes on to explore approaches involving the body in learning motor skills as a way of developing leadership, and moving from self-awareness to self-cultivation.

Hosmer, David. 2015. Coaching with Questions. Training Journal, June, 25-28

David Hosmer reveals the effectiveness of questions in coaching

McLeod, Angus. 2014. Rapport and neuro-coaching. Training Journal,, September, 58-62

Angus McLeod asks how might rapport impact on neurological change to create mind-body shifts for learning and health?

Rock, David. 2006. A Brain-based Approach to Coaching. International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, 4(2):32-43

This article introduces a theoretical foundation to coaching based on brain function. It highlights some of the current findings about the neuroscience of attention, insight, reflection and action, through interviews with a leading neuroscientist.

Rock, David. 2008. SCARF: A Brain-based Model for Collaborating With and Influencing Others. Neuro Leadership Journal, 1:1-9

In a world of increasing interconnectedness and rapid change, there is a growing need to improve the way people work together. Understanding the true drivers of human social behavior is becoming ever more urgent in this environment.

Shaw, Varya. 2012. Top Leaders Use Neuroscience to Improve EQs. Coaching at Work, 7(1)

Top companies use neuroscience to develop their leaders because it's rigorous enough to gain their trust, according to Tara Swart, an executive coach with a PhD in neuroscience...