New Trends in Leadership Practices


Arunav Banerjee
Director-Executive Education
School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL)

In a recent survey of managers, people were asked what they would most like to see in their leaders. The most popular answer was "inspiration". This brings us to the question that a lot of us, including those of us at the School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL), have been struggling with -- what are the right inputs that would make an inspired leader. And in this connection, I would like to share my thoughts on some of the new trends that are emerging when we talk of becoming an inspired leader or making somebody one.

I have often noticed that the term, "Inspired Leadership" is used to refer  to the persona of a  leader and not  his/her leadership style and approach. Therefore, we tend to think of charismatic leaders as inspired leaders. However, the reality is that a vast majority of people in organisations are "manager-leaders", who have to be groomed to become inspired leaders by transcending the boundary between a good manager and a good leader.

There is an imperative need to balance the two sides of the brain (or what is known as the 'Whole Brain Approach') in the making of a good leader. This stems from the largely researched theory of people being mainly left-brained (i.e. analytical, systemic, logical) or right-brained (which is more emotional, artistic and conceptual). A left-brained leader is therefore more likely to use logic and facts to influence his or her followers, while a right-brained leader would use rhetoric and emotional connect to get his/her point of view across

Since this is a naturally-occurring phenomenon ---  you are left-brained or right-brained without really knowing what makes you so-- this aspect of your personality is usually taken for granted. And your  followers respond accordingly. Therefore, if you know your leader is left-brained you will present a case or an analysis for consideration, whereas if you know s/he is righ-brained, you will appeal to their instincts and emotional connect for resolution of issues

Are any of these profiles right or wrong? Not really. However, both tend to work under specific conditions and may not apply universally. But, inspired leadership is not seasonal and factional. It has to apply to everybody (or almost everybody) and at all times (or nearly all times). Inspired leaders need to follow a whole-brained approach. What does this mean to an average person? It means that firstly we decide on what is our normal approach (left-brain or right-brain) and then work towards getting the other elements in place. Experience has shown that it is more difficult for a right-brained person to think left-brained than the other way around! Nevertheless, we need to train and develop ourselves to be able to respond to different situations and requirements.

How does one educate managers to become whole-brained Leaders? Let us take an example. If we belong to a manufacturing organisation and happen to be an engineer by profession, there are good chances that we are analytical and logical in our approach as default behaviour. Can we recognize that there are other behaviourial patterns that can supplement this? Is it okay to occasionally recognize efforts instead of always focusing on results? If we train ourselves, there is no reason why we cannot integrate ome of the right-brain approaches to our left-brain persona or vice-versa.

The second aspect of inspired leadership is the need to recognize multiple intelligence in individuals. In general, specially in the corporate world, a lot of importance is given to IQ or "brain intelligence". However, we know from our own experience that not every gifted child is "intelligent". There are so many people who for example have the knack of "winning friends and influencing people" but who may not be an Einstein in solving logical problems. Are we any way suggesting that these people cannot be inspired leaders? Obviously not, since leadership has more to do with a connect with followers rather than with qualities and characteristics of the individual leader.

Just like we have EQ instead of (or in addition to) IQ, there are a host of other intelligence that we are only dimly aware of. Take spatial intelligence for example which is the ability to deal with spaces in different ways. A leader in architecture may have more of spatial intelligence than any other kind and be an example to everybody in that organisation.

Any programme on leadership, therefore, needs to focus on some of these aspects of leadership which are often not taught or practiced, since they lie outside the conventional definition of leadership. As we say at SOIL, an inspired leader has the passion and fire within, and that passion and fire can come from myriad sources to light the way forward.

Arunav Banerjee
Director-Executive Education
School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL)

Source: E-mail July 12, 2011


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