For real leaders, dependency is not a dirty word

We have glamorized the solo, impervious leader at our own peril. Real strength comes from reliance on others.

For real leaders, dependency is not a dirty word.

In this particular study, which he conducted in collaboration with Richard Davidson and Hillary Schaefer, he used functional MRI technology to scan the brains of married women. While these women were being scanned, Dr. Coan and his colleagues simulated a stressful situation by telling them that they were about to receive a very mild electric shock. Normally, under stressful conditions the hypothalamus becomes activated. And indeed this is what happened in the experiment to the women when they were alone awaiting the shock — their hypothalamus lit up. Next, they tested the women who were holding a stranger’s hand while they waited. This time the scans showed somewhat reduced activity in the hypothalamus. And when the hand that the women held was their husband’s? The dip was much more dramatic — their stress was barely detectable. The study demonstrates that when two people form an intimate relationship, they regulate each other’s psychological and emotional well-being. Their physical proximity and availability influence the stress response.



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Matt Munson

CEO coach @ Angel investor. Startup founder. Committed to helping leaders feel less alone in the journey.