In a study with Diana Robertson and Andrew Bate of the Wharton School, managers in an executive MBA program were asked to react to fictional strategic and tactical management dilemmas while their brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
The best strategic performers had significantly less neural activity in the prefrontal cortex than in the areas associated with gut responses, empathy, and emotional intelligence.
What’s more, the strongest performers’ tactical reasoning relied not only on the insula (associated with emotional processing) and the anterior cingulate cortex (crucial for making new choices based on the assessment of past outcomes).
Their reasoning also engaged the superior temporal sulcus (associated with parsing sensory stimuli and anticipating other people’s thoughts and emotions).
It’s the part of the brain that allows them to understand how action plans would be received by the workers charged with implementing them.
That’s right, empathy. The most human ability to apprehend and share the feelings of others.