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Leadership Nudge® 314 – Patient Elliott

Dr. Damasio, a head neurologist, discovered that our decision making is processed through the emotional part of our brain. Healthy emotions are necessary for healthy decision making. Our job as leaders in a Leader-Leader organization is to create an environment where people can come to work with healthy emotions.

Learn more by reading this blog: Healthy emotions are necessary for healthy decisions


I was trained as a physicist and an engineer with a desire to be as logically coherent and rational about decision making as possible and drive all the emotions out of things. 

Now it turns out that’s wrong.  A compelling story in this book by Dr. Damasio, a head neurologist, highlights the importance of emotions and making decisions. There was a “Patient Elliot,” which we’ll refer to as Elliot, who had a benign tumor growing, but it was growing so big that was starting to impact the brain tissue around it. It had to be removed. After the surgery, he was both emotionally flat and he was incapable of making decisions. 

It turns out that our decision making wiring passes through the emotional part of our brain before we can make the decision. Think about all really big decisions: what profession you’re going to enter; what house are you buying; who might you marry? At the end of the day, they all rely on emotions. Healthy emotions are necessary for healthy decision making. Our job as leaders is to create an environment where people can come to work with healthy emotions, if we are asking them to be part of the decision making apparatus -which I say we want to be. 

Now, the joy of an industrial age organization is we didn’t have to worry about this because we didn’t need those people making decisions. We decided for them, so I didn’t care about their emotional health. But now you do. I’m David Marquet. That’s your Leadership Nudge.



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