Stories & Thoughts 

The not-so-secret weapon of leaders faced with a crisis

Written for my work with t-three, this article takes a look at how we can each use our physiology to ground ourselves and tackle whatever our roles and the world throws at us.


No matter how much we want it to be true, us humans are a complete mix of our biology and our brain. No matter what the outdated jokes may say, hormones rule the roost for people of every gender. The little nugget of the brain that rules these reactions is called the amygdala – it’s a sensitive little soul and its main role in life is to notice every threat and potential risk it can. It then sends our hormones running to make sure we avoid that potential threat by any means possible – that's called an amygdala hijack. You know that time when all you see is red, or the person opposite you has a seemingly unreasonable reaction to what's just been said – the likelihood is that that person is experiencing an amygdala hijack and can't see any other way.


Let's take a look at two leaders in the crisis we are all experiencing right now. These leaders are two individuals who I reckon have bucket loads of oxytocin.

Leader #1: Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand and heralded as 'the most effective leader on the planet'

Why,hear you ask?

  • She does what she says she’s going to do.

  • She’s consistent.

  • She’s decisive and swift in action.

  • She holds the health and happiness of a country in her hands and she does so with the utmost care.

  • She uses real words designed to be understood by real people.



Leader # 2: Brian Chesky, CEO of AirBnB who needed to lay off about 25% of his workforce due to the Covid 19 pandemic, has managed to do this in a way that is a "masterclass in empathy and compassion"

Why,hear you ask?

  • He delivered tough decisions with empathy and compassion

  • He believed in the connections he had built with his team over time.

  • He leads with collaboration, trust, and empathy.



So, that’s all well and good you say, but how can I access this not-so-secret weapon too?

Luckily for us and our workforces, compassion is both innate – meaning we have it inside of us – and it can be cultivated - meaning we can get more of it. Yes, our genetic makeup starts us off, for some of us (especially the women) our hormone receptors pick up oxytocin more readily than others. For others among us, we can alter our behaviours to increase the amount of oxytocin we have within ourselves. You can:

1. Build emotionally-strong connections with those that you lead.

2. Listen with your eyes.

3. Be really you.

4. Self-care helps you care for others.

5. Everyday boosts for you.


In our increasingly global, multi-skilled, multicultural, and now often virtual world there is little room for the lone wolf who does not work well with others. When it comes to accelerating your leadership career, creating a sustainable culture, and leading effectively in a crisis, we all need to dial up our oxytocin and pull together to achieve our goals.


If you'd like to read the full article, please follow this link.

Samantha x