The Neurobiology of Integration - Becoming a High Performing Leader

Silvia Damiano
2 min read

An orchestra perfectly in tune led by a competent conductor can create balanced, beautiful music. When our bodies are in tune, with a healthy brain at the helm, we also achieve balance. However, when our brain health is not optimised, our balance is thrown off and our minds and bodies are no longer in tune, resulting in behaviours and emotions that can negatively impact performance and lead to bad choices and decisions.

In the book Leadership is Upside Down (that explains the underpinning research of the i4 Neuroleader Model) we use the term integration, which refers to the effective functioning of the various components of the brain and body that create a healthy biological system.1

When our systems are not properly integrated, we perform like an orchestra out of tune, and poor performance impacts our relationships with others, how we make decisions, and how we overcome obstacles in work and life.

The Future of Work Requires An Integrated Brain & Body

Brain integration is critically important in terms of leadership effectiveness and general health and wellbeing. To prepare the workforce of the future, we must improve how our brains function and incorporate the tools of science into the methods we currently use to developing leaders.

When we think of great leaders, what characteristics do these individuals possess? According to recent research, world-class leaders have higher levels of brain integration that positively correlate with higher emotional stability, greater awareness, and undivided focus.2

Neuroscience is helping us to understand how the chemistry in the brain is altered by factors such as lack of sleep, a poor diet, alcohol, and stress. Stress in itself is a killer of high performing teams, and this altered brain chemistry can have an impact on how we behave, at work, at home, socially, everywhere. Fortunately, in most cases, brain function can be improved.

The thing you realise when you get into studying neuroscience, even a little bit, is that everything is connected to everything else. So it’s as if the brain is trying to use everything at its disposal--what it is seeing, what it is hearing, what is the temperature, past experience.

Paul Allen, Co-founder of Microsoft

Our brains exhibit neuroplasticity, which means that the structure and function of brain cells can change in response to external and internal stimuli. The practical implication is that while our brains can be damaged by things we do or experience, we have the capacity to correct this damage and improve performance, well-being, resilience and how we interact with others.3

Some ways to increase brain integration include:

  • Learn to breathe deeply: Breathing deeply is an exercise for your brain and body that can help reduce stress and bring calmness back to your mind.
  • Use a neurofeedback device: Mobile EEG (electroencephalography) devices collect real-time data during resting and stimulating scenarios. This technology is no longer confined to the lab, and we can use devices like these to demonstrate how the brain functions when people make decisions.4
  • Meditate: According to Dr Robert Schneider, leaders who practise meditation, particularly transcendental meditation, will experience higher levels of brain and physical functioning. In other words, leaders who meditate tend to live longer and do better.5
  • Ask others for feedback: It’s difficult to see past our own ego and hubris sometimes. Asking others can help us develop a sense of how our interactions and behaviours impact those around us.
  • Walk for 15-20 minutes daily: Try to spend as much time as possible with nature. If you work or live in a large city, find a green space and take a walk.

Knowing When Your Brain Is at Its Best, or Not.

Once we realise the importance and potential benefits of improving our minds and bodies, we can achieve balance and live a life in tune with our potential.

The future of leadership requires people who are knowledgeable, but also mindful, ready to collaborate, and open to new, or even radical ideas. Integrating your brain and body results in increased performance, and higher levels of productivity, harmonious environments, and better decision making.6


  1. Damiano S, Cubeiro JC, de Haas T. Leadership is Upside Down: The i4 Neuroleader Revolution. About my Brain Institute. 2014.
  2. Harung HS, Travis F. Higher mind-brain development in successful leaders: testing a unified theory of performance. Cogn Process. 2012;13(2):171-81. doi: 10.1007/s10339-011-0432-x
  3. Nowack K, Radecki D. Introduction to the Special Issue: Neuro-Mythconceptions in Consulting Psychology--Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. 2018;70(1):1-10. doi: 10.1037/cpb0000108
  4. Damiano, S. Wellbeing Strategies for Optimal Brain & Body Performance. About my Brain Institute. 2018;1. [eBook].
  5. Damiano, D. Four Must Do’s To Be A Vital Leader. About my Brain Institute. 2018. Available at:
  6. McLennan K. Building Leaders for the Imagination Age: The Case for the i4 Neuroleader Model.  About my Brain Institute. 2016;1.
Originally posted on: 7 March 2019
Last updated on: 12 April 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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