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HCI Webinar: Steadfast Leadership, with Dr. Randy Brazie and Dr. Geoffrey VanderPal

In the latest HCI Webinar, Dr. Jonathan H. Westover talks with Dr. Randy Brazie and Dr. Geoffrey VanderPal about steadfast leadership. Below is a summary of the main points from their conversation! Check out the full episode and let us know what you think!


Watch the episode here:


Quick Recap


The conversation between Randy Brazie, Geoffrey Vanderpal, and Jonathan H. Westover revolved around their recent book, "The Steadfast Leader," which explores the application of the Polyvagal Theory to leadership and business decision-making. They discussed the importance of self-awareness and empathy in leadership, the interplay between emotional and analytical approaches, and the concept of a 'steadfast leader'. The authors also touched upon the significance of understanding and managing emotions in sales or customer service environments and in leadership and management scenarios. The conversation concluded with a reflection on the impact of cognitive biases on decision making and the need for self-awareness in interactions with others and in making business decisions.


The Steadfast Leader: A Polyvagal Theory Application


Randy Brazie and Geoffrey Vanderpal engaged in a conversation with Jonathan H. Westover about their recent book, "The Steadfast Leader." Both authors shared their professional backgrounds; Randy Brazie is the former chief medical officer of Resilient Health and current medical director for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, while Geoffrey Vanderpal is a professor in the Master of Science and Finance Program at Purdue University Global. They were introduced by their mutual friend, Stephen Porjis, a neuroscientist and founder of the Polyvagal Theory. The authors explained that their interest in the Polyvagal Theory led them to apply it to leadership and business decision-making. The discussion concluded without a clear explanation on why their book is important in today's context.


Workplace Stress and Polyvagal Theory


Geoffrey Vanderpal expressed concerns over workplace stress and dissatisfaction, noting its negative impact on efficiency and effectiveness, as well as its high cost for employers. He suggested the need to apply insights from psychology and neuroscience to leadership and business decision making. Randy Brazie then explained the concept of polyvagal theory, emphasizing its role in mediating stress responses and its potential application in understanding and managing workplace interactions, especially in remote or hybrid settings. The discussion highlighted the importance of understanding both the cognitive and more primitive aspects of the brain in shaping our responses and interactions.


Self-Awareness and Empathy in Leadership


Jonathan and Geoffrey discussed the importance of self-awareness and empathy in leadership. Jonathan emphasized the need to understand oneself and others, citing the poly vagal theory and its role in understanding the evolutionary psychology behind how the brain works. Geoffrey introduced the concept of instinctive leadership, describing it as leading by intuition and trusting one's feelings. They agreed that many leadership models lack a focus on self-awareness and that a better understanding of oneself leads to a deeper understanding of others. They also highlighted the importance of making conscious choices in response to instinctual reactions.


Emotional vs Analytical Leadership


Jonathan, Geoffrey, and Randy discussed the importance of understanding the relationship between emotional and analytical approaches to leadership. They highlighted the need for self-awareness and the interplay between the heart and mind. Geoffrey emphasized the direct relationship between IQ, EQ, and SQ, while Randy explained the disconnect between the thinking and instinctive brain under stress and the role of self-regulation in decision making. The conversation concluded with the introduction of the concept of a 'steadfast leader', who can manage stress, build resilience, and make informed decisions.


Leadership, Complexity, and Social Engagement


Geoffrey Vanderpal emphasized the importance of his proposed concepts, including their application in academic and professional environments. He and Jonathan H. Westover discussed the need for mature leadership that is less reactionary and more thoughtful, taking into account complexities and nuances. Randy Brazie added insights about the social engagement system and its development throughout childhood and adolescence. Jonathan then shifted the discussion to practical organizational applications of steadfast leadership, asking Geoffrey for further exploration on this topic.


Emotional Management in Sales and Leadership


Geoffrey Vanderpal and Randy Brazie discussed the importance of understanding and managing emotions, particularly in a sales or customer service environment, such as dealing with an agitated customer. They highlighted the ineffectiveness of escalating the situation and proposed using their book's techniques to bring the customer to a calm state. They also touched on how these principles could be applied in leadership and management scenarios, including improving recruiting and screening candidates. Randy emphasized the role of the primitive, instinctive brain in this process and the concept of 'neuroception', the nervous system's perception.


Steadfast Leadership and Psychological Concepts


Jonathan, Geoffrey, and Randy discussed their book on steadfast leadership and its unique approach to using psychological concepts in the business world. Geoffrey highlighted the book's uniqueness, emphasizing that it's the first of its kind to integrate poly vagal theory and neuroceptions into leadership strategies. Jonathan agreed, stressing the importance of new perspectives in leadership to avoid complacency. Randy added that their book focuses on working with the full human brain, not just the top half, and that it's not dissimilar to approaches used in mental health. A question was posed about tips for being a more steadfast leader and understanding oneself and others better, but no response was given in the transcript.


Cognitive Biases in Decision Making


Geoffrey Vanderpal and Jonathan H. Westover discussed the impact of cognitive biases on decision making in areas such as HR and finance. They stressed the importance of self-awareness of these biases to prevent non-optimal financial decisions and to treat others with respect and dignity. A key point made was the need for self-awareness in interactions with others and in making business decisions.


Listen to the webinar here:





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