Pierre Balthazard, a professor at the Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, claims to have indentified parts of the brain that enable someone to be a good leader. This claim furthers the debate about whether leaders are born or made. Balthazard uses EEGs (electroencephalography) to produce a ‘brain map’ of his subjects. By looking at the brain map, he claims he can predict a person’s capacity for certain traits linked to leadership.
Balthazard is currently working with the US Military to develop a model that will allow them to scan soldier’s brain for complexity. This will allow the military to determine the complexity of that soldier’s brain; the more complex a brain, the better situational awareness and adaptive thinking the person has. Balthazard refers to traits like brain complexity and transformational leadership as precursors to leadership itself. This would seem to indicate that Balthazard believes leaders are born, and the complexity of brains, as seen via brain maps, show who will be a good leader. Balthazard does not take into account differing situations.
While Balthazard is excited by the possibility of determining leadership from brain scans, he is more excited about the possibility of brain training and improving leadership skills. This would make it seem that Balthazard believes leadership can be made through adequate training of the brain. Balthazard believes that brains can be trained using positive and negative reinforcement. This would be possible because a subject would be wired to a software program to recognize the correct functioning of a specific part of the brain and if the brain is not performing correctly, there is negative feedback.
However, others are more skeptical of Balthazard’s research. Others believe that it is difficult to develop something such as leadership. Dr. Bob Kentridge, a researcher at Durham University in England, thinks that even if you find differences in brains of people who have different leadership abilities, it’s hard to say that the difference in brains in attributable only to leadership and not a variety of other factors. It also does not take into account differing forms of leadership in different situations.
The ideas of whether a leader can be born or made are found within this article. Balthazard developing the idea of brain mapping and relating level of brain complexity to leadership ability would lead one down the road to believe that leaders are born. But his idea of training the brain to become a better leader contradicts that thought and leads one to believe leaders are made. Is this taking trait theory one step farther by mapping the brain and attributing certain traits to the complexity of the brain and the level of effective leadership? Is the idea of a person being born a leader or made into a leader further complicated due to this research?