Whole Brain Leadership

Whole Brain Leadership

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
– Peter Drucker

The Idea: We all have a preferred way of processing information and thinking through difficult problems. Research has shown that there are four primary modes of processing information. We sort information analytically, sequentially, interpersonally or imaginatively. Most people, 90 percent, utilize multiple modes. Only 7 percent of people studied strongly prefer one mode over the others, and less than 3 percent are whole brained in their preferences, preferring all four quadrants equally.

Whole Brain® Thinking is a model designed by creativity researcher Ned Herrmann. The model shines a light on how we all process information differently. Herrmann used this as a metaphor for describing the four decision-making modes, pointing out that different activities require different mental processes. He discovered that these four thinking modes are essential to creating a holistic team.

  • Analytical – emphasizes understanding how things work through facts, logic, and reasoning.
  • Sequential – emphasizes directions, details, planning, and step-by-step problem solving.
  • Interpersonal – emphasizes listening, feelings, conveying ideas and collaboration.
  • Imaginative – emphasizes bigger-picture thinking, challenging norms, creativity, and vision.

As leaders grow in power, their self-awareness decreases. Research shows that only 10-15 percent of people have high self-awareness. Self-awareness is an amalgamation of two skills: effectively managing your own state of mind and understanding how you affect others. Very few people are adept at both skills, and even fewer are aware of their own decision-making preferences and the preferences of their team.

In hypercompetitive climates, organizations must embrace Whole Brain® thinking. Change management expert John Kotter reminds us: “Individuals who keep large, complex organizations operating reliably and efficiently are managers. This is not what a leader does. A leader is visionary and empowers others while getting their emotional commitment.” A leader connects dots in a dynamic world, constructing purpose and harnessing talent while creating the culture. Kotter believes “Too many firms are over-managed and under-led” in a world of limited competitive advantage.

Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter flips the debate by stating that “strategy is never excellent on its own; the game is won on the playing field.” She continues: “When a strategy looks brilliant, it’s because of the quality of execution.”
The highest performing organizations incorporate a unique blend of both leadership and execution skills. Leadership expert Bill George has shared many times that today we are seeing a different kind of organization: far less hierarchal with more collaboration, empowerment, and a global outlook. They have acquired a medley of distinct technical skills and “soft skills,” to include adaptability, resilience, and emotional connection. The future of teams is a fusion of logical, resourceful, collaborative and creative people. The future is whole brain organizations.

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