So much of today’s business leadership remains stuck in a fear-based Industrial Age model of “Command and Control.” It’s a model developed in the days when production lines required military-style leadership to stay productive. I’ve experienced it in my own corporate career and rebelled, which often got me into trouble! In a world now built on network connections, a top-down leadership model has the reverse effect, stifling productivity.

“You can’t lead in an A.I. world with Industrial Age leadership.”

It’s a compelling quote—one that appears on my website, and it’s an idea about which I am both passionate and vocal.

Everything I espouse in my work as a consultant and coach is to shake things up, to do things differently, and to encourage businesses to do the same so they remain relevant and productive into the future.

When I left a corporate career to start my own business as a consultant and coach, focused on helping leaders and companies remain relevant and productive in a rapidly changing world, I continued this drive to throw open the windows on the boardroom and business environments.

I knew that whatever leadership model I decided to adopt to share with my clients had to support my strong desire to see change in business, to bring more creativity, innovation, collaboration and intuition, and frankly, more humanity into business environments. It’s why I took my time on deciding the model in which I wanted to certify. 

Leadership Models Based On The Past

Whilst researching leadership models, I found the majority have been established on theories that pre-date World War II or at best are at least 25 years old. To offer a leadership model to my clients that wasn’t innovative or different from the standard approach would be nothing short of inauthentic of me as a consultant and coach.

I’m very excited about the i4 Neuroleader Model, designed by Silvia Damiano of the About my Brain Institute, as it is based on the developing field of neurobiology. We have learned so much about how our brains function and the benefits of integrating brain and body health over the last 40 years, and we continue to do so. 

The i4 Neuroleader Model leverages neuroscience to deliver an innovative yet practical model that creates Brain-Friendly Cultures where people can thrive.

Helen Fitness

The name i4 is derived from the four core competencies of Imagination, Inspiration, Integration and Intuition, which have been mapped to pillars of Performance, Collaboration, Innovation and Agility.

The four core competencies are the most challenging for leaders to develop, yet I firmly believe they are the competencies that make leaders and businesses relevant in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). 


When were you last encouraged to play, be creative, and step outside the guidelines to allow your imagination to run wild? It’s when innovation happens—when the crazy ideas get space to be realised and they propel you and the organisation forward. It requires time and space each day to develop creativity & an environment that allows it.


When were you truly emotionally connected to and energised about a common purpose, vision or goal, the energy of which saw you through uncertainty and unpredictability? Inspiration refers to “the energy, enthusiasm and desire to act as a result of feeling mentally and emotionally stimulated.” 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian-American psychologist, describes it as “flow,” that state of being totally absorbed in a task that is both difficult and rewarding. He says:

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


When did you last feel you were truly operating at optimal performance--when your brain was functioning in a calm, alert state and your physical well-being was supporting the health and function of your brain? 

High stress and anxiety both destroy the executive function of the prefrontal cortex that allows for planning, decision-making, problem-solving, self-control, and long-term strategies. In these moments, our emotional impulses run the show. Our best decision-making is done when we are calm and alert, responding instead of reacting. Integration refers to “the effective functioning of the various components of the brain and body that result in a healthy system.”


When did you last give your “gut” feeling the respect it deserves and recognise it as a valid decision-making tool? Operating in a fast-paced world, we have all the data and no data, often having to make decisions on the fly without all the information we’d like. 

Trusting ourselves and our intuition or “gut” is a valid decision-making tool that is sorely overlooked in most business environments. Intuition refers to “the ability to know something without the involvement of conscious reasoning.”

The i4 Neuroleader Model Combines Structure And Neuroscience

From my own perspective, the i4 Neuroleader Model has given me a structure, the scientific evidence and language around what I have been thinking all along—that imagination and creativity, shared experiences and collaboration, intuition and self-awareness, and adaptability are the hallmarks of great leadership and high-performing teams for a complex future. 

Creating environments where calm and urgency can coexist, creative ideas from any direction are heard and nurtured, instead of squashed flat or squeezed into boxes, will see businesses navigate and excel into the future.

Having completed the 360° feedback i4 Neuroleader Assessment myself, which uniquely includes family, friends, peers, colleagues and clients as raters, I have become aware of known strengths I can leverage, unknown strengths I can explore further to capitalise on, and limitations, both known and unknown, which may be holding me back from performing optimally across the spectrum of an integrated life. It has been a rare opportunity to have a respectful mirror held up to me and my behaviours, with practical strategies to grow personally and professionally.

With the assessment results, I have been able to select a few key strategies to change my behaviours and help others experience me in a different way, so I can create the conditions for successful transformation. 

It’s about more than just business leadership. It is about personal leadership and how I show up in the world.

The benefit of the i4 Neuroleader Model is that it is grounded and practical, opening us up to new ways of thinking, backed by evidence-based neuroscience.

I can’t wait to share it far and wide to make good on my mission to throw open the windows on business leadership.

Originally posted on: 13 August 2019
Last updated on: 18 February 2024

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Helen Fitness

Helen Fitness

i4 Neuroleader Certified Trainer
Independent thinking partner to senior business leaders & founders. Leadership for impact & change. Establishing my business in my native New Zealand challenging individuals and organisations globally to think differently about themselves and their business. Improving performance, collaboration, innovation and agility so they and their businesses are more productive, profitable and cohesive now and in the future.

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