Leading from all 3 of our brains

Call it instinct, a hunch, a sense, a gut reaction, intuition has, in past worlds of work been shut-down as unreliable, flakey or new-age. This has resulted in unbalanced leadership where decisions were based on facts only and any sense of heart or intuitive sense was denied voice. 

Unfortunately this type of leadership still exists today, but thankfully from my experience, there has been a rising shift in balanced leadership.

Multiple Braining (mBraining) founders Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka state 

“Truly generative and adaptive leadership today requires whole new levels of self-awareness and self-facilitation for integrating head-based intellect with heart-based values and gut-based instincts” (2012, p. 2).

Ancient wisdoms from sages through the centuries have spoken about the concept of accessing deeper levels of wisdom. Oka and Soosalu (2012, p. 18) cite Tao Te Ching:

“And wanting what’s precious 

You do what distorts your being. 

The sage knows his gut, 

And is guided by his instinct 

And not by what his eyes want”

They also draw on Aristotle’s dictum that “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all” (p. 19).

Oka and Soosalu (2012) mBraining (Multiple Braining) theory suggests that we have in fact three brains: head, heart and gut. Each brain has neurons and transmits information. Each brain also has different competencies and operations:


COGNITIVE PERCEPTION – cognition, perception, pattern recognition, etc.

THINKING – reasoning, abstraction, analysis, synthesis, meta-cognition etc.

MAKING MEANING – semantic processing, languaging, narrative, metaphor, etc.


EMOTING – emotional processing (e.g. anger, grief, hatred, joy, happiness etc.)

VALUES – processing what’s important to you and your priorities (and its relationship to the emotional strength of your aspirations, dreams, desires, etc.)

RELATIONAL AFFECT – your felt connection with others (e.g. feelings of love/hate/indifference, compassion/uncaring, like/dislike, etc.)


CORE IDENTITY – a deep and visceral sense of core self, and determining at the deepest levels what is ‘self’ versus ‘not-self

SELF-PRESERVATION – protection of self, safety, boundaries, hungers and aversions

MOBILIZATION – motility, impulse for action, gutsy courage and the will to act (p. 45).

Oka and Soosalu (2012) also suggest that when we have communication and alignment between our three brains, we are able to access their highest expression, reaching a state of congruence and subsequently accessing our inner ‘wisdom’. Similarly, Marty Linskey (TEDX, 2011) explained that technical leadership is from the head, and adaptive leadership is from the heart and gut. For a leader to achieve balance between their three brains, they also need a level of emotional self-awareness and an ability to focus inwards. Therefore, through higher emotional intelligence and the practice of mindful three-brain integration one is able to develop more conscious and congruent leadership.

Despite the world needing leaders with logical and strategic thinking abilities, accessing and integrating the heart and gut provides a deeper, intuitive level of leadership. This also arose out of my research into the link between emotional intelligence and change leadership. One participant reflected 

“If I listen to my gut feeling, my intuition, I’m pretty right most of the time. …It’s when I second-guess myself…then I should have listened to my gut feeling”.

We need multi-dimensional leaders who can draw on all three of their brains. 

So where might you begin?

Start to notice…

  • Which brain leads when you make a decision?
  • Does one brain override another? (eg are you predominately heart-led?)
  • To what extent do you pass decisions between all three brains:
  1. Does it align with my/our values?
  2. Does it make sense?
  3. Once again, check into your values.
  4. Now take the decision to your gut. Does it sit right? Is it you? Can you see yourself doing this?
  5. And again back to your heart-space. Is it aligned with your values?
  6. Decision made.

Need a speaker?

There are plenty of speakers to choose from. I am not the norm. You won’t be bored to tears by the same ole’ approach and dribble. How about bringing Mary-Anne for the conference or all-staff day.

Give me a stage and I’ll own it. Give me a room and I’ll energise it. Give me your people and I’ll inform and inspire them. 

Need virtual delivery – no sweat! I have facilitated virtual full and half-day workshops, virtual keynote speaking at online conferences, and might I say, you still get the Mary-Anne goodness you deserve!

More details here


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