Where business leadership is concerned, we tend to think of traditionally “left-brained” people: the types of individuals who excel at numbers, logic, planning, and processes. These qualities create great leaders! Right?
I want to challenge that notion with the idea that there is not only room but a need for right-brained business leaders. This isn’t exactly a new notion. It’s been written about by psychologists and business experts alike.
Traditionally, we’ve been taught that business is for the left-brained leaders. Those who can be emotionally removed and analytical. The right-brain, however, excels in creativity, intuition, insight, and emotion.
The Role and Value of Right-Brained Leadership
Let’s get this out of the way: there’s no actual division in the brain between the left and right hemispheres that affects personality. As people, we might have these tendencies, but you aren’t prone to using a particular side of the brain more. It is, however, a concise way to refer to different ways of thinking and processing the world.
In the case of these approaches to leadership, we often see a right-brained approach dismissed in favor of the left. But more and more, there’s not just room for this creative and insightful approach in leadership: there’s a need for it.
Intuition to make decisions.
As much as we want to believe that are decisions are 100% driven by careful calculations and logic all of the time, many of our decisions are ultimately made based not on the amount of data we’ve collected and analyzed, but on emotion and intuition. Even if something makes the most logical sense, we won’t listen if it doesn’t feel right. And many times, that’s the right choice.
In a Harvard study by Jagdish Parikh 13,000 executives credited both left and right-brained skills in their leadership styles, but credited 80% of their success to right-brained intuition. Wild, right? We rely on intuition. We trust it, even if we claim to be logical, analytical people.
Leaders must inspire and motivate.
The right-brained leader knows the value of an emotional hook. They know that employees, customers, partners—anyone involved at any level of work—need to be motivated, inspired, and engaged in order to be effective long-term. It is not enough to make a logical argument. People do not act on logical and rational decision-making alone. A deeper connection is necessary.
Because of this, a right-brained leader is careful in the crafting of their brand and in presenting a desirable image and a worthwhile product or cause to the world. It’s central not just to getting people on board in the beginning, but in creating something that will be sustainable long-term.
Reading and relating to people is essential.
Right-brained leaders are relational. They understand that being in a position of leadership does not demand distance. It demands listening and intentional relationship. They know that in leading, they are inviting others to trust them, and that trust comes with responsibility. With trust, however, comes loyalty and dedication. As a strong relationship deepens, so does unity.
Understanding and collaboration matters.
They know that people of this generation want to be heard, known, and valued. By doing so, they will receive the best work and nurture growth. A right-brained leader is valuable in that they seek to understand different points of view (not necessarily the most efficient or logical one) and value team efforts and collaboration. They desire innovation and new ways of thinking.
Out of that comes truly transformative products and ideas that can be vastly more beneficial to our society as a whole that “safe” ideas.
Ultimately, a right-brained leader is not superior to a left-brained leader, but there are elements of right-brained leadership that are highly beneficial. It’s more personal, dynamic, and creative. The best leader fall somewhere in the middle—a “whole-brained” leader who relies both on logical decision-making and intuition, analysis and creativity.
It is when we take the best elements of these leadership styles that excellent business leaders emerge.
Are you right-brained or left-brained? How does it affect you in a role of leadership? Let me know in the comments!