September 2019
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Use Your Brain TD
TD Magazine

Use Your Brain

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Influential customers and employees urge leaders to embrace whole-brain thinking.

There is a classic divide between left- and right-brain thinking. The left brain is responsible for scientific reasoning and critical thinking, while creativity, empathy, and intuition fall under the right brain's domain. However, new research from Accenture Strategy found that a cohort of customers and employees known as pathfinders expect their leaders to embrace whole-brain leadership that balances the left brain's logic with the right brain's empathy.


The Whole Brain-Leadership: The New Rules of Engagement for the C-suite draws on interviews with more than 200 C-suite executives and survey responses from more than 11,000 employees and consumers. It identifies pathfinders, who are characterized primarily by their belief that they can effect change within the companies they work for or buy from. This powerful group is also socially responsible, being 67 percent more likely to buy from companies that contribute to society. The C-suite is aware of this group and its power, with nearly three-fourths believing that pathfinders can harm their business if their expectations are ignored. However, pathfinders also can be influential allies if the C-suite engages with them properly.

One of the best methods that Accenture Strategy uncovered for helping the C-suite foster positive relationships with pathfinders is embracing whole-brain leadership. Pathfinders expect their leaders to blend and balance left- and right-brain thinking. For most leaders, that will require beefing up their right brain—89 percent of them hold business school, science, or technology degrees and are generally comfortable with analytical left-brain thinking. In contrast, 65 percent of leaders acknowledge that their right-brain skills are weaker, making this a prime opportunity to enhance whole-brain leadership.

There is an enormous gap between leaders' actions and intentions around whole-brain leadership; 8 percent say that they currently use a whole-brain approach, compared with 82 percent who plan to use this approach in the next three years. Hopefully these leaders follow through with embracing whole-brain leadership—and, in the process, successfully woo the critically important pathfinder cohort.

About the Author

Eliza Blanchard, APTD, is ATD's Learning & Development content manager. Contact her at [email protected].

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