Whole Brain Leadership

In Western society, particularly America, leadership is typically left-brained.

Why?  Because leaders are chosen for their knowledge…their knowledge of a particular industry, and how and where all of the stovepipes of the industry go, and how they must function to make the business work…how all the widgets fit together to make the perfect product.

And where does knowledge come from?  The left brain.   The side of the brain that thinks linearly, making logical, rational decisions.

We have created, trained and chosen leaders who are  “well-educated manipulators of information and deployers of expertise.”      We have taught in our schools and in our businesses the logical, linear thinking that created the Information Age.  

There is now more than ample evidence to suggest an imperative for immediate change in how we train and select our leaders!

In A Whole New Mind, a current New York Times and Business Week bestseller,  Daniel Pink asserts that “for nearly a century, Western society in general, and American society in particular, has been dominated by a form of thinking and an approach to life that is narrowly reductive and deeply analytical.”  He argues that we are entering an age where the “left brain” capabilities that have powered the last century will not be enough.  Anyone who wants to survive and thrive  in the new emerging world, what he calls “the Conceptual Age,” will need right brain  “inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities.”

Organizations that succeed will need to retrain or replace left brain leadership with whole brain leadership.  Whole brain leadership will champion the creative processes of innovation. 

Today’s businesses realize that in what is obviously a rapidly changing business climate, leaders must be more responsive, more adaptive, more innovative than they they have ever been.  Many large businesses now tout the benefits and values of innovation, yet leadership remains ensconced in left brain training and implementation of business practices and programs that lacks reward for innovation and creativity.

How many organizations ask their employees to develop stories, to use their imaginations, to be subjective rather than objective, or to look at and value interdepartmental relationships in a contextual rather than segmented sense? 

 How many organizations truly encourage and reward “out of the box” thinking?    Are  meetings where  ideas are “tossed at the wall”; where no idea is a bad idea, and fun and participation is really endorsed, the “norm” or the  exception?   Or do most of your organization’s group meetings fail not only to get the best possible solutions, but fail to generate contributions to get solutions?

To advance into the new “Conceptual Age”, America and Western Society, needs to change its educational process –to create a seamless transition from the time a student enters the educational system until they leave it to enter the business world.

Rather than dropping their art, music and drama programs, educational facilities need to enhance them, and add these elements throughout the entire teaching process. In addition to preparing students to enter the new world of business, it may well be the missing element needed to stem the alarming drop-out rate. By stimulating the creativity and innovation of the right brain, and balancing left-brain/right-brain teaching, education may renew students’ interest, and be revived to include teaching not only what to think, but how to think.

Businesses need to begin training, and rewarding leadership for development of the new aptitudes that include right brain thinking, the intuitive, imaginative, holistic half that provides the qualities of empathy, joyfulness and meaning.

In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink crafts a cogent argument that for business “it’s no longer enough to create a product that’s reasonably priced and adequately functional. It must also be beautiful, unique, and meaningful.” He describes the most telling factor as Target’s sale of designer wastebaskets to feed the “middle-class obsession with design.” Design in a functional component…a wastebasket… has no “meaning” to the left brain!

What the author points out is that in the new “Conceptual Age: “To stand out in the marketplace,”individuals and businesses must master the “soft” aptitudes”, gaining “mastery of design, empathy, and play.”

According to Daniel Goleman in Working with Emotional Intelligence, one particular cognitive skill that distinguishes the strongest leaders from other executives is that they recognize patterns, and can pick out meaningful trends from the “welter of information around them and are able to “think strategically far into the future.” The is not a left-brain function, but a whole brain function.

The whole brain leadership of the “Conceptual Age” will create working environments where data is analyzed and “imagined” into the sum of its parts, and its contextual relationship to determine and define “what really matters;” where products and services will meet the “aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual demands of a prosperous time.”

Are you ready? 

Are you ready to embark on a journey to search for meaning in your life?  Does the idea of developing a multi-functional,  “ambidextrous” brain, and using it in your leadership role  intrigue you?  

If so, then be not “rigid of mind” nor “slow of foot.”  We are now in the Conceptual Age, and opportunity abounds.

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