Breakthrough Leadership – A New Way Of Thinking

Breakthrough Leadership – A New Way Of ThinkingRalph Waldo Emerson said, “The exceptional life depends not on working harder, but on different, even opposite actions from habit and the crowd.” This quote was shared by neuroscientist Dr. Robert Cooper at the 2016 YPO Pacific EDGE regional conference in Los Angeles. He used data backed by science and technology to challenge business leaders to achieve their true potential.

“Your brain is not your friend. In terms of you becoming your best possible self, it is a terrible boss. It avoids change, it magnifies the negative, it plays small, it nitpicks; it delays and defers everything that matters most,” he said. “It leans away from possibility.”

Cooper is CEO of Cooper Neuroscience Lab and Cooper Strategic, a global consulting firm that draws on a peak performance database with more than one million leaders, professionals and teams. He is a “New York Times” bestselling author, a leading high-performance business strategist, and is one of the “Most Influential Thinkers” for his impact on leadership and people strategy.

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In his talk, which was live streamed as part of the inaugural YPO Innovation Week, Cooper explained that the brain’s tendencies and defaults are not designed for today’s information overload, interruptions and distractions, which affects one’s ability to notice or plan for what is next and what is possible.

To help create breakthrough leaders and teams, he asks two questions that result in “constructive discontent” and ignites the drive to lean in to possibility and opportunity.


1. If you had to become the business that puts you out of business in the least time, what would be different and better?
2. If you had to become the leader who most quickly and effectively puts you out of a job, what would be different and better?

For motivation, Cooper shared a few research-based questions:
• If you knew that the first 21 minutes of your day every day sends powerful signals to how your brain and body make energy that upgrades or downgrades your entire day, how would you design your first 21 minutes?

• If you knew the brain focuses at a peak level of brief bursts of 6-12 minutes, how would you redesign your schedule to focus more effectively on your top priorities?

• During your prime time, your energy and focus are two to 100 times higher than any of your waking minutes. What is your best time of day?
Early morning, late morning, afternoon or evening? Identify, protect it, and apply it to what matters most instead of inadvertently burning through it all focused on what matters least.

• If you knew that the brain sees feedback as flaw-finding, and that feedback is one of the greatest causes of distractions and passive aggressive behavior at work, would you make the switch to 90 percent feed-forward, which the brain sees as a line of hope? Use questions like, “Building on everything we learned, including our setbacks and stumbles, how can we be our best ever for what’s next?”

• If you knew that taking a brief break of 40 seconds with a greenscape view powerfully charges your brain and body, would you schedule a few more of these breaks in the midst of your busy days?

• If you knew that 45 seconds of reflection after learning anything new helps make the learning stick, would you reflect on your new learning?

• If you knew that “good” and “great” are the enemies of possible, would you stop over-celebrating great and dare more often to reach beyond it?

To close, Cooper emphasized that leaders have to make the conscious choice to continue learning and growing.

“We are living in a very special moment in history when neuroscience and technology are combining to help us transcend the brain’s limitations and move toward our true potential. This is your time, this is your chance,” he said.

(This article is contributed by YPO, the premier leadership organization of chief executives in the world. Leadership. Learning. Lifelong. For more information, visit