wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

The Leaderboard

Most Read: National

From the Blogosphere

Jena McGregor

Jena McGregor

Staff writer Jena McGregor teases out the leadership issues in the day’s news.

Tom Fox

Tom Fox

Guest contributor Tom Fox, of the Partnership for Public Service, writes weekly about issues in the federal workplace.

Lillian Cunningham

Lillian Cunningham

Lillian Cunningham is the editor of On Leadership and writes features for the section.

Leadership Consultant

Carol Kinsey Goman

Carol Kinsey Goman is an executive coach, author and keynote speaker. Her book “The Nonverbal Advantage” was followed by “The Silent Language of Leaders,” published in April by Jossey-Bass.
» All Posts by Carol Kinsey Goman

Rewire your brain

Question: You've been asked to give a commencement speech to this year's college graduates about their role as future leaders. Give us the two or three key paragraphs from your address.

You know that technology has changed your life. But did you know that it has also changed your brain? According to research, this is true for everyone, but it is most relevant for you “digital natives” who were born into a world of laptops, smart phones, text messaging and tweeting.

These newly evolved technology circuits are bringing your brain to extraordinary levels of potential. You have a heightened ability to react quickly to visual stimuli and to sift through large amounts of information rapidly to decide what’s important and what isn’t. 

But, while your brain has been developing circuitry for online social networking, it has also produced shortened attention spans and diminished social skills, including nonverbal communication (body language), which directly affects emotional aptitudes like empathy. In fact, a study by the University of Michigan found that the empathy levels of college students have been declining over the past 30 years – with an especially steep drop in the past 10 years. The problem is, you will find that social skills, empathy and nonverbal savvy will become increasingly important to your success as you enter the workforce.

The good news is that you can intentionally alter brain wiring and reinvigorate some of those dwindling neural pathways, even while keeping all the advantages of the newer ones. So I would advise you to grab your well-earned diploma, keep honing your technical abilities – but also study body language!

View all panel responses to our discussion about the best words of wisdom to give this year’s graduates. Here are some of them:

Alan Webber: Do everything on purpose

Marie Wilson: Help a country hungry for its heart

Angel Cabrera: Do good!

Juana Bordas: Transform your community

John Baldoni: Believe in what you can achieve

George Reed: Care enough to lead

Amy Fraher: Commit to ethical thinking

Carol Goman: Rewire your brain

Carol Kinsey Goman  | May 2, 2011 6:15 PM

 
Read what others are saying