I’ve noticed leadership and personal development being associated with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a framework in online and offline conversations these days. Maslow was obviously a thought leader, especially ahead of his time. I see an interesting twist, however, that deviates from the typical line of thinking.

As the hierarchical theory goes, as one has his or her food, shelter, and basic physiologic needs met and can then grow through the levels of safety, social, and esteem development, the person grows into “self-actualization,” or more self-awareness and true potential. In theory, this would be nice. But if growth was really this linear, all of the wealthy millionaires and billionaires would be enlightened and self-actualized, which is hardly the case. I’m not picking on this group by any means, as lack of self-awareness is ubiquitous; in fact, the vast majority of humanity is not very self-aware.

As neuroscience points out, 95% of what runs most people’s lives is out of their awareness — yes, 95%, that is not a typo. If having physical needs met and advanced educational degrees was all that is needed to develop security, social, and esteem needs and go on to self-actualize, the United States in particular should be the most enlightened, self-aware culture on the planet. Yet, Gallup and others show that 70 to 80% of employees are disengaged and half of all adults are obese—which means unhealthy—and depression and stress are seriously high.

Why is this occurring in the wealthiest country in history, and what about the security, social, and esteem challenges in spite of met survival needs? First, the theory of the importance of these areas of security, social, and esteem needs are ancient, as they didn’t begin with Maslow. There is an ancient Eastern system known as the “Chakra” system, which points out the first three levels of chakra development as these three very things: security, social, esteem. This is not a new idea.

What Maslow did beautifully was to translate it into the present culture. If having physical needs alone met, however, leads to satisfying these three basic human needs, how do you explain greed and corruption from seemingly smart and confident business people? The key word is “seemingly.” If one doesn’t understand how to optimally operate the amazing “Inner Technology” of their brain, they will live from the older and less advanced levels of their brain. Their security, social. and esteem power will be hijacked by their perception of competition, fear, and survival. I don’t use the word “primitive” when I talk about levels of the brain, as there is nothing primitive about our brilliant brain.

We just haven’t until now understood very much at all about how to effectively operate and manage our brain in a way that helps us to be better leaders and more purposeful and fulfilled human beings. Most people are living from a place of their “Level 2” brain, the Mammalian Brain, that is concerned with social and emotional states. It works closely with our instinctual “Level 1” or Reptilian Brain, which is concerned with basic human physiological states. When one lives at these levels of awareness, it is not surprising that 95% of daily life is out of our awareness. It is no wonder that enough is never enough. This is the source of limited business vision and insensitive, unimaginative leadership.

When a person doesn’t understand the Neuroscience of Leadership, blind spots of all sorts create stumbling blocks to team engagement, innovation/creativity, and empathy. The focus of the mind will stay frozen and stuck on survival. I call this state of mind Frozen Focus, and it hinders a leader from expanding the vision for their business and life. Understanding how to optimally operate your brain will allow you much easier access the highest level, “Level 3” of brain development, known as the Neo-Cortex. It is the seat of “Self-awareness.” This is the state of mind to access Freeing Focus to expand the vision in your mind’s eye.

When we understand how to do this, we can become masterful in our own journey of personal and professional development. In this state we can begin to break the cycle of fight/fight/freeze and turn our attention to begin the journey of self-actualization — on purpose.

You see, our perception when we are dominantly in our Mammalian brain can keep us stuck in fear as it relates to security, social, and esteem needs. It requires conscious awareness to escape this vicious cycle. It is my intention to help leaders and their teams — people to do this in the context of business and life as I have done for myself. It is a lifestyle process that literally frees your mind.

“Self-actualization at work” is a leadership development truism. The time is now to integrate on many levels: work/life, mind/heart, and body/spirit. This is the path to a whole new mind, in reality and not just theory. I started this journey 20 years ago, and I have integrated the science with my experience and understanding our brain and mind within the context of my medical business and personal development, spirit, mind and body.

It made me a better leader and a happier person and transformed my office culture and business results to a level of excellence. I know this is a powerful tool. What do you think about the role of neuroscience and “brain awareness” in leadership and personal performance as it relates to organizational change and culture?

Author's Bio: 

Valencia Ray, M.D. teaches business owners and corporate leaders how their amazing brain can actually hijack personal power -- not in the abstract, but in the context of integrating business and personal life. Dr. Ray, a board-certified eye surgeon and medical business owner for over 20 years before selling her practice, shares her own life changing process. By sharing her story, she helps others to expand their vision and learn that by living with purpose and confidence, it is possible to have a more integrated, healthier lifestyle – with less struggle, more inner peace and more abundance.

For more information and to contact her regarding dynamic, inspirational keynotes, trainings in collaborative leadership and team building, entrepreneurship and coaching programs, visit her website at http://www.ValenciaRay.com.