Ann Herrmann-Nehdi is CEO of Herrmann International and co-author of The Whole Brain® Business Book, Second Edition (McGraw-Hill).
What’s the most effective leadership style?
OK, it’s a trick question.
There is no “one size fits all” style. Leadership is personal; it’s individual. The best leaders aren’t trying to be someone they’re not or to force-fit themselves into a prescribed mold. They understand their own style—who they are—and they’ve learned how to leverage it.
But regardless of personal leadership styles, our research has shown that there are some commonalities among the most effective leaders. Especially in a business world that’s as complex and fluid as today’s, we’ve found that being a successful leader requires Whole Brain® Thinking.
This means understanding how you prefer to think as well as what your mental “blind spots” are. It’s also about having the agility to stretch outside your thinking comfort zones when the situation requires it.
The great thing about the brain is that you have access to all of it. So while I may prefer conceptual thinking over structured approaches, that doesn’t mean I can’t focus in on detailed action items. It does, however, take conscious awareness, motivation, and effort. And most of the time, we’re pretty unconscious about our thinking.
To get more conscious about thinking so you can become a more effective leader, start with these quick tips:
- Understand all the brainpower that’s available. Being whole-brained isn’t just about your own thinking; it’s also about recognizing who can supplement your strengths when the situation requires it (and then listening to them!). Know the people around you, and bring in the complementary thinking you need to see all contingencies and aspects of an issue.
- Make thinking a priority. Our culture is focused on “do, do, do,” to the point where thinking is often viewed as a luxury. But it’s your job to think, and you can’t run on autopilot when the landscape is constantly changing. Own, schedule, and protect your thinking time, as well as the thinking time for those you lead.
- Play to people’s strengths. When employees are disengaged and burned out because their jobs don’t match their thinking preferences, it can cost the company millions. Tools like the HBDI® Assessment can be used to understand not only the person’s preferences, but also the mental requirements of a particular job. This is valuable information for talent alignment and coaching/performance support discussions.
- Escape your thinking confines. It’s easy to get contaminated by your industry or organizational mindset. To be more strategic and innovative, you have to make a point to regularly escape this narrow view. Read about industries that have nothing to do with yours, attend different conferences, network widely. If you don’t look outside, you risk getting caught off-guard.
You can hire experts in finance and lean and technology. What you can’t hire is your own ability to think critically, creatively, and strategically, to think visually, intuitively, and globally—to be able to project your leadership out into the future. Get conscious about your thinking by exercising Whole Brain® leadership daily.
Learn more about Whole Brain Thinking at our upcoming webinar with Ann Herrmann-Nehdi: Unlock the Power of Whole Brain Thinking.