Much has been researched and written about the characteristics of effective leadership styles. Numerous types of evaluations reveal our individual propensities to show how we relate to others we seek to lead. Key factors such as introversion/extroversion, congenial/assertiveness or type A vs. type B personalities emerge to help describe our natural inclinations during interrelations with others. These are useful tools that are well known by our human relation experts. We who seek to become better leaders use all of this information and more as we interface with others.
You may or may not be familiar with evaluations developed by the psychiatric profession that study the multiple differences in the brain structure that innately influence how we behave as individuals.
Being a layman, I can only describe a small portion of the results of these marvelous medical discoveries. From a leadership perspective, we now know that all adults are born with varying amounts of “left brain” and “right brain” characteristics. While we all have both, most people are born with either a dominant “right brain or left brain” set of natural propensities. What does this mean?
A person who possesses a dominantly “right brain” may be described as one who naturally places such factors as: feelings, empathy, relationships, compassion and harmony with others at a high priority. A strong “left brain” personality is driven more by: facts, analysis, data, systems, schedules and goals. This is an over simplification of a complex medical study.
These two broad personality traits are not related to intelligence or moral values. We all have different interests and abilities to accomplish certain types of tasks or goals. We tend to migrate toward comfortable activities and avoid activities we dislike.
Many times we fail to understand or appreciate people whose dominate personalities are on the other side. In most people, one side or the other is dominate, but all possible combinations exist – i.e. 70/30, 60/40, 50/50 or 30/70, 40/60 and other combinations are possible.
Many times leaders are less successful in certain types of jobs or leading certain types of assignments, because they do not understand who they are and how they may need to adjust their dominate conduct to fit the types of people involved in the decisions or tasks at hand.
Be assured there are no wrong or bad personality profiles. We have all inherited certain levels of God given left and right brain personalities. Here are some general characteristics of both types of brain orientations:
- Develop relationships easily, are good listeners, care about and project interest in others
- Good at formulating compromises
- Generally seek to be involved in service to others
- Often very creative and artistic
- Tend to avoid difficult decisions or confrontations – hoping they will go away or be decided by others
- Tend to not be concerned about time schedules
- Are often not able to organize their responsibilities
- Love to interrelate and talk but often avoid drawing any specific conclusions.
- Driven to get things done – will confront and compete easily
- Normally good at handling systems, data and analysis
- Very time and schedule oriented
- Usually organize and manage their responsibilities well
- Tend to ignore the feelings and opinions of others in their decision making
- Are often rigid and uncompromising
- Base most decisions on facts rather than feelings or ideas
- Sometimes decide and speak before thinking through options
Effective leaders learn to discipline themselves to behave according to the best approach that will influence others to follow and thus to accomplish the desired results. This analysis applies equally as strong at home with family and friends as it does in our business relationships. Here are a few typical descriptions of people in real positions in life:
Politicians – right brain people do best – they are good talkers
Business Managers – left brain people organize and get things done
Scientists – left brain people who deal with facts, analysis, systems
Labor Oriented Jobs – right brain people are better followers but some supervisory positions require left brain leadership
Religious Ministers – right brain activities are heavily involved but left brain leadership is required for financial survival and church growth
Top Corporate Executives – both brain types are needed depending on the complexity of the management decisions and the types of interpersonal relationships involved
Marriages – Marriages often suffer and can lead to divorce because the partners have opposite brain orientations and they do not understand how to deal with their different God given personalities.
Parent/Child – Family relationships often suffer because the children get mixed signals on what is acceptable conduct from parents who have different brain orientations.
Friends/Neighbors – Relationships suffer or often do not develop because personalities are not understood.
The Best Model
For those of us who profess to be Christians, we learn a lot about leadership styles and human relationships from the life and teachings of Jesus. If you think about it long enough, you will remember how Jesus dealt with many difficult situations and personalities. His dominate brain orientation (as a human being), was about love and his concern for others. His mission on earth was about helping, serving and bringing people together – all right brain activities.
He did not seek to encourage physical violence, but he had the courage and resolve to confront, in a peaceful and thoughtful manner, the military and political powers of his day. He felt the suffering of his mission, but he did not back down from facing his responsibilities – all left brain activities. Jesus demonstrated a balanced approach in his decision making and in his relationships with all people. I believe if Jesus were here today, he would teach that:
- Right brain people need to mobilize the courage, in certain situations, to activate stronger left brain capabilities in order to get more good things done correctly and on time.
- Left brain people need to discipline themselves to being more sensitive to the feelings and opinions of the people they seek to lead.
It would seem important that we all learn how to balance our responses to others with the hope that we may together some day- make a positive impact on bringing in of God’s Kingdom on this earth. May this be your daily prayer?
By W.F. Peck