In an age where artificial intelligence is becoming the norm, it is important to focus on the qualities of human beings which allow us to personally transform and offer a broader spectrum for effective thinking. Leaders who are able to understand, perceive and process their emotions are on the way to achieving mind-body alignment. Bringing the three brains (mind, gut and heart) into focus can strengthen self-awareness and allow leaders to handle stressors more efficiently.

The expressions ‘trust your gut’ or ‘listen to your heart’ are rooted in truth. Experts Marvin Oka and Grant Soosalu have developed a coaching method which integrates all three neural networks, the head, gut and heart.

This new way of thinking utilises neuroscience and works with the body’s intelligence to allow people to transform how they process information from the environment. In Leadership Is Upside Down, we explore how human brilliance isn’t limited to just the brain, but how the gut and heart also impact creativity and cognition.1

The Many Versions Of The Heart

In ancient times, the brain wasn’t regarded very highly--it was all about the heart. Aristotle believed the heart was where intelligence and thought were localised, not the brain. Ancient Egyptians didn’t even bother to save the brain. Instead, the brain was scooped out from the nose and thrown away, but the heart and other organs were carefully preserved.2

In the film Make Me A Leader, Jay Vidyarthi, Head of User Experience at Interaxon in Toronto, and Judith Glasser, the author of Conversational Intelligence, discuss the link between the heart and the brain. While the ancients placed a great deal of value in the heart, more recent medicine perceived the organ as a simple pump, pushing blood around the body. Now we know how stress and emotions affect the heart. Negative emotions cause a jagged, irregular heartbeat, and positive emotions show a smoother and more even heartbeat.3

Developing mindful leadership requires us to cultivate positive emotions to help us achieve a compassionate & calm state of mind. Only then can we address problems and questions with agility and develop true connections with others. There’s a reason there are so many expressions about the heart, such as ‘from the bottom of your heart’, ‘follow your heart’, ‘have a change of heart’ or being ‘half hearted’. Perhaps it’s time we acknowledge the role the heart has when we make decisions.

The heart is a muscle, and you strengthen muscles by using them. The more I lead with my heart, the stronger it gets.

Mark Miller

The Gut Feeling You Can’t Ignore

Just as the heart is linked to the mind, so is the gut. The network is so extensive many scientists refer to the gut as a second brain. Leaders who choose to forego this second brain will not be as intuitive or agile as leaders who embrace aligning the gut-brain axis. You might listen to your heart, but do you listen to your gut?

Gut health has a huge impact on our overall health and wellbeing. When your gut is off, you likely feel symptoms such as bloating, constipation or gassiness. These symptoms are often a calling-card for bigger issues, and leaders who understand the importance of gut health will have an edge over those who do not.

In our data-driven world, it can be tempting to always follow the numbers. Numerical data is easy to quantify, easy to enter onto spreadsheets and easy to prove. The gut feelings we often get, on the other hand, are difficult to quantify or back up with evidence. However, intuition is not a result of a ‘feeling’. Instead, your body is processing millions of bits of information and sending you a message. You can either accept the message, and learn how to increase intuition, or you can ignore it, and likely miss out on future opportunities.4

Using The i4 Neuroleader Model To Align Body Systems

Bringing the mind, heart and gut together is possible for anyone, particularly with proper coaching. When these systems are working together, you will increase agility, allowing you to make better decisions and to process changing information more efficiently. Leaders with increased agility5:

  • Trust their instincts
  • Can influence others easily
  • Have personal power
  • Can easily change course and implement new measures

Leaders with agility are ready to face anything--no matter what life or the business environment can throw at them. Stress affects our gut, heart and brain, negatively impacting our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

The i4 Neuroleader Program can help you align these systems to modify your outlook on life and help you become a happier and more authentic version of yourself. You don’t have to live with an imbalance between your brain, heart and gut. Instead, learn to link all the intricate parts of your body for a more fulfilling life.

As artificial intelligence becomes a staple of the modern world, we should fully utilise all of our human capabilities to better evolve and adapt. To learn more, check out our award-winning leadership development programs and educational documentary!

1. Damiano S, Cubeiro JC, de Haas T. Leadership is Upside Down: The i4 Neuroleader Revolution. About my Brain Institute. 2014.
2. Chudler EH. Neuroscience for kids. Eric H. Chudler. 2018. Available at:
3. Damiano, S. Wellbeing Strategies for Optimal Brain & Body Performance. About my Brain Institute. 2018;1. [eBook].
4. Wilson C. Trusting Your Gut Is The Best Business Tool You’ve Got--If You Can Listen. Forbes Media LLC. 2018.
5. McLennan K. Building Leaders for the Imagination Age: The Case for the i4 Model.  About my Brain Institute. 2016;1. [White Paper].

Originally posted on: 26 February 2019
Last updated on: 20 May 2024
Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.

Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.

Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership

In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.

Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

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