To be a great leader, it is essential to understand your innate leadership style and your blind spots to ensure you are leading with your whole brain. The first step is to understand your innate strengths as a leader and this can be accomplished by taking a leadership assessment. But don’t stop there, this assessment will also identify your blind spots as a leader or the areas of leadership that are less developed. These insights can help you to create a leadership development plan. By understanding your innate strengths and your blind spots you can learn to lead with your whole brain.
Leaders: Are they born or developed?
The question of whether leaders, particularly great leaders, are born or developed is a hot button issue that often draws a line in the sand between two camps: nature or nurture. Past research suggests that leadership is 30% genetic and 70% a result of lessons learned through life experiences. However, this is an overly simplistic way of looking at this question. The reality is that each of us is born hard-wired with a particular leadership style and the potential to be a great leader. What we do with that potential is entirely up to us.
What does hard-wired leadership style really mean?
Each of us is born with a particular brain organization, basically a preferred way in which we use the four quadrants or functions of the brain. Each of the brain quadrants has a very specific skillset and set of abilities that we can tap into. This brain organization determines our hard-wired leadership style – which is a combination of inherent strengths and areas we must develop in order to achieve our full potential as leaders.
What are these four quadrants and functions of the brain?
To best explain this – think of dividing your brain into 4 quadrants, two at the back near your neck and two at the front near your forehead.
The 2 quadrants residing in the back of our head sit in the emotional area of the brain – and are closely attached to our instinctual brain which determines fight, flight, and freeze responses. The quadrant on the right is focused on talents and abilities that relate to others – bonding, connecting, resolving conflict, communicating and empathy. Examples of leaders who tap into this quadrant as leaders would be Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King. Their drive as leaders was about connecting to people and resolving conflict. The quadrant on the left is used for experiencing our world – so talents associated with precision, mechanics, sequencing, and following disciplines or rules. Examples of people whose leadership style is routed in this quadrant would be leaders in the army or police force who following rules and lead in a very structured way.
The other two quadrants reside in our rational brain which sits up at the front, essentially in our foreheads. Of this side of the brain the quadrant on the right is used for interpreting our world – envisioning what is possible, synthesizing, anticipating the future, and conceptualizing. Steve Jobs, Hillary Clinton and Oprah fall into this camp. The quadrant on the left is used for defining our world – using logical analysis, objective decision making, organizing and structuring. Donald Trump and George Bush lead in this way – their leadership style is very definitive.
How do these four quadrants impact leadership style?
Scientific research has shown us that at the time of birth, one of these four quadrants is neurologically hard-wired to be 100x times more efficient than the other three. Basically, this means that you have greater neurological access to the talents in this quadrant. They are easy for you to use and as a result, you start using them from a very young age and these connections in the brain strengthen over time as a result.
The other quadrants are harder to access – this is where your underdevelopment is as a leader or your blind spots occur. These are the areas we need to understand and develop so you can lead with your whole brain. That does not mean that you have to be perfect but you do need self-awareness and a plan or strategy to protect your blind side.
How can you uncover your predominant quadrant?
There are many different assessments available that will provide you with insight into your brain organization or leadership style based on these four brain functions – The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Disc, True Colours, Jung’s Typology and the Striving Styles Personality System. Most of these are based on the same underlying theory from Carl Jung who over one hundred years ago proposed that we have two ways of making decisions – using our Thinking or Feeling function, and two ways of processing information – using our Sensing or Intuitive functions – and two attitudes by which we use these functions – Inwardly or Outwardly. Over the past 20 years, advances in neuroscience and brain imagining have allowed scientists to prove the validity of Jung’s theory.
How is having knowledge of our brain useful to us as leaders?
Leadership development always starts from self-awareness. Before you can develop as a leader or improve your effectiveness in any way, it is critical to understand your innate, hard-wired leadership style. Effective leadership requires us to leverage our innate strengths but we must also identify our blind spots and learn to use the less developed aspects of our brain to be completely effective.
Developing leadership capabilities is experiential – the only way to become a more effective leader is to give yourself experiences that push you out of your comfort zone and allow you to build access to the less developed quadrants of your brain so you can lead with your whole brain. If you are not uncomfortable in the development process, then you are not actually changing the hard-wired patterns in your brain that cause you to lead the way you do today.
By developing these capabilities as a leader you will learn to lead with the whole brain and reach your full potential as a leader.