2 min read

Cultivating Leadership That Cares About its Employees — The Role of Neuroscience in Diversity, Equity, and LGBTQ+ Inclusion

Cultivating Leadership That Cares About its Employees — The Role of Neuroscience in Diversity, Equity, and LGBTQ+ Inclusion

If your animal brain is not happy at work, you’re going go to feel like someone is rattling your cage.

In neuroscience, the ACC is an acronym for the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain commonly called the animal or mammalian brain.

Most animals have basic needs like food, shelter, safety, and procreation. If those needs are met, the animal feels safe. If not, they feel higher levels of stress and threat. Humans have the same needs.

The ACC has a second meaning from a personal leadership and behavioural viewpoint.

In this context, the ACC stands for Acceptance, Connection, and Care (credit to my coach, Dax Moy). These are core human emotions which collectively and independently demonstrate love in the largest sense of the word. When any one of those emotional needs is not met, we do not feel safe.

We are constantly seeking safety in our surroundings, including social environments.

The anterior cingulate cortex is like a movement sensor, constantly assessing,

  • Am I feeling connected with others?
  • Do I feel accepted by this person?
  • Does this person care about my well-being?

This assessment of our environment helps us determine the level of threat and safety to our emotional wellbeing.

If the anterior cingulate cortex determines you’re safe, you can relax in your social environment — be that with one person or hundreds. If you feel safe around others, you feel accepted for who you are. However, if you don’t feel safe enough to be feely out and open as an LGBTQ+ individual, you will never feel fully accepted, connected and cared for — you will not feel loved.

If you’re in a leadership position, do your staff feel safe, accepted, and cared for?

Do they feel the company has their dignity, wellbeing, and best interests at heart?

Ideally, do staff see themselves reflected in the corporation’s values, beliefs, and mission — or are they forced to fit in? The former provides safety, the latter creates discomfort, misalignment, and threat. What form of assessment have you conducted to determine how safe your staff feel in their work environment to freely be who they are?

Acceptance, Connection, and Care Translate as Love and Respect for Individual Human Dignity.

From a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) perspective, it’s helpful to look at synonyms and antonyms for these three ACC terms to understand the dynamic aspects of empowering, inclusive leadership.

Synonyms for Acceptance, Connection, and Care.


  • Approval, acknowledgement, concurrence, recognition, ally, friend, association, network, kinship, reciprocity, mentor, sponsor, partnership, affiliation, togetherness, relationship.


  • Contact, network, relation, acquaintance, ally, association, friend, kinship, reciprocity, mentor, alliance, partnership, togetherness, relationship, union.


  • Responsibility, effort, conscientiousness, supervision, attention, nurture, enjoy, love, value, protect, trust, interest, regard, respect, watchfulness, guardianship.

Antonyms for Acceptance, Connection, and Care.

The following antonyms clearly demonstrate leadership that is not inclusive and how an employee might feel in a workplace that doesn’t support a culture of inclusion and equity.


  • Disapproval, disagreement, denial, opposition, disbelief, rejection, exclusion.


  • Disconnection, opposition, antagonism, division, separation, disunion, avoidance; enemy, other.


  • Apathy, carelessness, disinterest, disregard, disrespect, indifference, neglect, inattention, negligence.

The Opposite of Love Is Not Hate.

When you don’t feel seen, respected, included, part of the team, or cared for, you don’t feel loved.

The closest true opposite to love is indifference (disregard; not caring) or neglect (intentionally choosing not to care).

If any aspect of the ACC triad — acceptance, connection, and care (and its variety of antonyms) — is missing from your corporate DEI program, what kind of work environment are you cultivating?

Image: Ken Whytock