The C-Suite Can Strike Balance with Whole- Brain Leadership

Written by – Sohini Bagchi

The complexity of today’s disruption is challenging executives to transform their companies, their C-suite and themselves personally. A new Accenture study reveals that when C-level executives adopt a ‘whole-brain approach’, generate a much higher revenue growth and profit. In short, they see a positive bottom-line impact.

Whole Brain Teaching is an approach that was primarily designed toward maximizing student engagement. It focuses on the way the brain is really designed to learn. The research shows, in the organizational context, and especially in the digital era, this approach can create a new type of leader to engage their passion, principles and capabilities.

C-suite explanation of ‘Whole Brain’ approach

The Accenture research clearly indicates digital leaders are increasingly finding new ways to lead, grow and sustain their organizations. Those with a whole brain approach are the ones who have a strong balance across analytics-led and human-centered skills.

This approach blends what’s traditionally been considered “left-brain” (scientific) skills that draw on data analysis and critical reasoning with that of “right-brain” (creative) skills that draw on areas like intuition and empathy. Bringing the two together intentionally to drive deeper levels of problem solving and value creation is critical. And therefore technology leaders who are ideally supposed to be ‘left brain’ yet possess a creative bend of mind, can be great assets to any organization.

The research however finds that only 8% of C-suite members bring a whole-brain approach to table today. Of course majority of today’s C-suite leaders come from B-schools and hold degrees in science, technology. They have a honed “left brain” skills—like critical reasoning, dealing with numbers. Data. Stats. This has served them well, and these capabilities will always be vital. But they are no longer sufficient.

In fact 65% of C-suite leaders – mostly coming from technology teams – say their “right-brain” skills are weakest. They recognize the need to strengthen their right-brain skills — including empathy and intuition — for a well-rounded “whole-brain” approach.

However, a whopping 82% intend to use a whole-brain approach in the near future. And it’s worth the effort. The study shows C-suite leaders who report using a whole-brain approach to leadership today are already seeing a positive bottom-line impact. They also saw on an average 22% higher revenue growth and 34% higher profitability growth, the study says.

“New rules of engagement for the C-suite is implementing a human-centered approach to leadership, balancing “left” (scientific) brain skills with increasingly valued “right” (creative) brain skills, such as empathy, self-awareness and intuition,” Peter Lacy Senior Managing Director Accenture Strategy and co-author of the report mentions.

He believes that companies that take a ‘whole-brain’ approach to leadership will generate much higher revenue growth over the next three years.

Key takeaways for C-level executives

At a time, when digital technologies are taking the center stage, here are some accelerators that will help C-suite leaders achieve whole-brain thinking to drive higher-value problem solving.

Address the skills gap

The C-suite recognizes that changes need to be made within their ranks. Nine in 10 are beginning to take steps to address skills gaps. They are using organic and inorganic ways to tackle the problem. Fifty-five percent are reskilling members of their C-suites. Nearly half are bringing in talent from outside their company.

“Managers today are facing truly unprecedented pressures to make changes. The pace of digitization is producing organizations that are more agile. As a result, there is a need to redefine leadership methods and behavior,” say the researchers.

Advanced training programs in machine learning and AI leverage a range of methods, including reverse mentoring and design-thinking workshops, the study says.

– Take advice from mentors

Harnessing the power of the mentors, consultants and innovators in the group is essential. Researchers believe, in mundane jobs such as accounts and IT, While dedication, education and training are irreplaceable, sometimes they aren’t enough. Sometimes you need a personal touch. This is why these leaders need mentors and guide.

“The qualities that make a good mentor are those define a great leader,” the researchers say. In this case, mentors can help IT leaders and other digital leaders with the power of both left and right brains and come up with specific solutions.

– Get the right balancing act

Getting this right is a balancing act. It requires a very well-rounded set of skills across the right and left brain. These are proactively and deliberately baked into the DNA of the organization.

The C-suite must build these balanced skills in practice and use at both the organizational and individual level. This need to be planting seeds for the future by building this required skill set into their recruiting strategy throughout the organization, creating a pool of candidates mid- and long-term to fill leadership and C-suite seats organically with whole-brain thinkers.

It will take the combined spark and power of left- and right-brain thinking to break down business problems and to create new value, the researchers say.

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