School: Business
Management and Leadership students learn neuroscience in the classroom.
Photo credit: Lorena De Benedittis
November 24, 2019 |

Professor Uses Neuroscience to Teach Leadership Skills

Marcia Ruben, PhD, PCC, teaches soft skills that help build peak performance and emotional intelligence.  

By Jenny McKeel

The disciplines of neuroscience and leadership appear to share little in common. But the link between the two is the research specialty of Golden Gate University Associate Professor Marcia Ruben, a leading innovator in applied neuroscience and leadership who serves as the Program Director of MS Leadership and chair of the Management department.

Dr. Ruben has incorporated the latest research about the biological basis for leadership principles—ideas now trending at corporate leadership seminars—into MBA and MS Leadership courses.

“Leaders who are aware of the neurochemistry of social interaction are better able to regulate themselves, lower defensiveness, and bring everyone’s best thinking and ideas to the table,” said Ruben.

Feedback and Teamwork Skills

Ruben introduces students to scientific evidence that shows how the brain responds to feedback and teamwork environments. Students then practice facilitating teamwork and giving feedback that brings out optimal performance in others—using research-based techniques. In other courses, Ruben incorporates a framework that looks at the brain’s wiring to pick up environmental threats and rewards as well as unconscious habits and biases people have–all based on neuroscience.

Students in an executive coaching class learn the neuroscience of feedback.
Photo credit: Lorena De Benedittis

“The leadership courses at GGU have been so impactful,” said MBA student Simon Lee. “I’ve learned about different leadership styles, how to work on teams, how to build trust, resolve conflicts, and build contingency plans. Learning how to give and receive feedback helped me to see the skills I need to develop. These courses have built my confidence and given me direction.”

Self-Confident Leaders

Dr. Ruben says the neuroscience-based curriculum helps produce self-confident, better equipped leaders with strong teamwork and feedback skills that give them a leg up in terms of leading organizations.

“In every class I learn something that applies to my workplace, which my employers have really appreciated and enjoyed,” said MS Leadership student Christine York, who works in the biotech industry as a process improvement and program manager. “They ask me what I’ve learned in class and want to test on them. The classes and the models we learn—I am able to take all that back and create training and development for leaders in my company. That’s a huge benefit.”



  • Beau Crowley says:

    Dr. Ruben’s leadership courses are truly transformational.
    #Best in the business!


  • Jan Newman says:

    Just read your post and found it very interesting…some of which I have used in facilitating focus groups in the past! Hope to see you in the new year!

  • Avram Grossman says:

    Who we are as individuals is very much a neurobiological balance that we can learn to master. It helps us to be patient, understanding, compassionate and centered. Dr. Ruben knows this very secret and teaches it to others so effectively.

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