I’ve always believed in the power of the heart and mindful leadership in business. It made people look at me funny when I called my company a “love culture.”
Recently I came across the science behind using the heart to drive leadership, build connected cultures, and increase group productivity. My jaw dropped.
In the words of Jason Mraz, “it takes no time to fall in love / But it takes you years to know what love is.”
This isn’t about me (just) promoting the warm fuzzies of love. There’s a deep wellspring of scientific backing about bringing the heart forward in leadership.
Understanding the Heart’s Wisdom
Many of us may not be aware of the astounding capabilities of our hearts. The heart houses a staggering 40,000 brain neurons, known as sensory neurites. This means that it functions as an independent center for memory, thought, and learning. You can create neural networks in your heart, just like the brain. For this reason, scientists often refer to it as the “little brain.”
But there’s nothing little about it. In fact, the heart has a magnetic field that is 600 times more powerful than that of the brain. This field can be measured by magnetometers several feet outside the body. These fields have frequencies that communicate information (we’ll get there in a minute).
Approximately 90% of the information exchange between the heart and the brain flows from the heart to the brain, making the heart the primary instigator of information.
Tapping into Alpha Waves and Heart Coherence
What’s even more remarkable is that you have the power to influence this information exchange. By learning to relax into the heart, you can send alpha waves to the brain, providing it with the energy and safety needed for creativity and growth. This concept is known as “heart coherence,” and research has shown it to have profound effects on cardiovascular health, immunity, and longevity. It also creates elevations in cognitive, social and physical performance.
It is a highly efficient, optimal state.
Heart coherence is not an abstract concept; it can be measured through heart rate and Heart Rate Variability (HRV). By consciously cultivating feelings of love, gratitude, and compassion, you can enter a state of coherence that positively impacts your physical and mental well-being.
The Ripple Effect of Social Coherence
Here’s where it gets truly fascinating. Studies have demonstrated that when a group of individuals enter a state of heart coherence together, a person can walk into the room and becomes measurably coherent (without being aware of the concept).
Group coherence creates feelings of cooperation, trust, compassion and increased prosocial behaviors. This group regulation has powerful implications for teams, so let’s apply it.
Take a moment to think bigger: what if we could become globally coherent? It’s proven that our heart coherent frequency is the same as the Earth’s primary resonant frequency. Putting this another way, human hearts are synced up with the Earth’s magnetic waves. For an incredible run-down of the topic, check out this brilliant lecture by Dr. Rollin McCraty about heart-brain coherence (and prepare to go down the rabbit hole).
Unlocking the Potential of Mindful Leadership
Here are three ways you can harness heart coherence at work and elevate your mindful leadership:
1. Heart Coherent One-on-Ones: During one-on-one meetings with team members, incorporate heart coherence practices to foster deeper connections and mutual understanding.
You can start with the Quick Coherence Practice from Heartmath. You and your teammate can take 1 minute at the beginning of the minute together to close your eyes, breath into your heart for 30 seconds, and then think of a person or pet that you love for 30 seconds.
This not only enhances communication but also helps build a more supportive and harmonious work environment.
2. Heart Coherent All-Hands Meetings: In large group settings, implement heart coherence exercises at the beginning of all-hands meetings.
This one is on you (and anyone leading the All-Hands). Take 30 seconds with eyes open or closed to feel into your chest area. This is called the felt sense, in which you focus your awareness on the physical sensation of your heart. See if you can feel your heart beating or generally feel the skin of your chest or a few layers below. It takes practice, but putting your attention on your heart helps bring energy to it.
If you feel coherent as a leader, you will have more energy and feeling to your All-Hands (which you can ready more about Leading Enchanting All-Hands here). This adds inspiration to your words by grounding you in your creative source, your heart.
Regulating yourself also models for others regulation and can lead to more productive and efficient discussions. This principle is at the heart of mindful leadership.
3. Heart Coherence with Clients: Introduce heart coherence techniques to your interactions with clients.
Right before you meet with a client, imagine a smile going across your heart. See that smile expand across your chest up to your shoulders and throat, opening up your creative and communication centers. It only takes 1 minute and you should feel a surge of oxytocin and other “feel good” hormones released, which increases activity in the prefrontal cortex.
This can help build trust, enhance rapport, and create a more empathetic and effective working relationship. Clients are more likely to respond positively when they feel heard and understood at a deeper level.
What’s love got to do with it? Everything.
I hope these practices elevate your mindful leadership and juice you with a little extra connection today.