Brain Age – What’s Yours and Why Does It Matter?

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A recent study conducted by the Imperial College in London showed that people who have a brain age that is older than their chronological age had an increased risk of early death, up to almost a decade prior to their chronological peers with normally aging brains.

What the researchers also discovered was that those people with a higher than normal brain age also performed worse on a number of physical tests, such as grip strength, lung capacity, and walking speed.

Even though early death might be a bit dramatic for the average executive, and most executives will be long retired before they hit 70 or 80 years of age, we know from research that many executives do suffer from many of the physical and mental states that contribute to a higher than normal brain age, such as stress, exhaustion, high blood-pressure, lack of sleep, and so on.

In my article “9 Brain-Aging Sins That Kill Your Performance” I touch on this a little more.

Because brain-aging, even rapid brain-aging, is a gradual process the actual destruction of key areas in the brain that are required for optimal performance and leadership capacity will likely begin at a reasonably young age, in a time where the average executive is expected to hit peak capacity. Also, the gradual decline in capacity will likely happen at a rate slow enough to allow it to progress unnoticed and under the radar until it becomes noticeable later in life.

In today’s highly competitive and volatile business world, executives are required to be able to do more with less, thus resulting in a demand for a capacity to lead, perform, and innovate that is much greater than we ever have seen before. Looking at market trends, this does not look like it will change any time soon.

For that matter, protecting the brains of our executives and providing them with opportunities to maintain their brain age is critical if we want to remain competitive and relevant today, and in the future.

Much like undergoing regular health-checks to determine our physical health status, or 360-Feedback assessments to determine leadership effectiveness, organizations should also consider providing their executives with opportunities to ascertain that their brains are healthy, fit, and aging at a normal rate.

Now, of course, this does not mean that every executive needs a brain scan. There are a number non-invasive ways executives can measure their brain age against people in their age groups, such as psychometric testing and so on.

Over the past 5 years, I have spent a considerable amount of time and resources researching the most convenient ways to be able to measure brain-age and have found that brain age alone really is not enough. What’s more important is whether or not the state of the executive’s brain is having a negative impact on the behaviors necessary for success, performance, and inspirational leadership.

For that reason, I developed the HeadStrong Performance Assessment, which not only measures brain-age, but also assesses performance and leadership attitudes and behaviors that may be affected by the executive’s brain-age. You can view a sample report of the assessment here.

After assessing hundreds of executives and leaders, I have learned that the majority of executives that I have worked with, suffer from accelerated brain aging, and because of that are not able to live up to their full potential as leaders and executives.

The only way, I think, we can ensure that our executives and leaders of the future are able to perform at full capacity and remain relevant in tomorrow’s business climate is by ensuring their brains remain healthy and fit, especially during times of chaos, change, and even catastrophe.

Personally, I can’t wait to see where the future of talent management and development takes us with regards to priming our talent to be able to be the best they can be.

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