Leasing the Future to Left Brain Leadership

03/17/2006 07:32 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Most of us are aware that our brains have two sides -- the left side is more verbal/analytic and the right side more nonverbal/global. What many of us have neglected to notice is the left-brain dominance among those in whom we've entrusted our futures. At one time the right side of the human brain was considered weak and relatively useless compared to the logical left. Our school systems continue to largely measure intelligence according to left-brain logic giving little credit to the wonders of the right brain. It's the right side of our brain that allows intuition and leaps of insight, Ah-ha experiences and seeing the big picture. The left side inclines on its own toward step-by-step supposedly rational (don't confuse me with emotion or the bigger picture) linear rather than holistic thinking. Perhaps this is beginning to sound familiar. It describes our domestic and foreign policies. There are no Ah-has, no Eurekas, no intuitive leaps as we have filled the U.S. halls of leadership with left-brainers, ironically largely from the right of the political spectrum.

By the time our minds (particularly the left side) and nervous systems finish funneling experience what Aldous Huxley called a "a measly trickle" of consciousness remains -- the kind that we've come to rely on to govern and protect us from harm. And that is exactly where we've gone wrong. We've voted for people with half a brain for whom focus on increasing wealth for the few and crafting reasons why that benefits the many is actually smart thinking. Since our left-brain leaders cannot feel the pain of others through empathy but only through the cool distance of reason (often faulty), the victims of Katrina continue to suffer. Giant industries charge exorbitant prices for oil and much needed medicines, which, by some bizarre left-brain logic indicates thriving capitalism. The memories of our congressional representatives and senators for the unethical machinations of lobbying and wire-tapping of citizens is short because they reason, via their left brains, that other issues have taken precedence (a sure sign of the absence of multi-tasking) or that "a window" of opportunity was missed. By whom? When? The only window constantly missed is the one that would allow us to see clearly how one-sided, essentially half-witted our choices of leaders have been. We desperately need some leaders who can actually remember yesterday as more than just step one and who distrust purely left-brain thinking. After all, it is pairing of the two sides that made possible spectacular advances in science, philosophy, literature, art, government and even defense.

Unless our preference for half-witted, left-brain leadership changes, we will surely one day wonder how a country filled with the promise of such marvelous right-brain visions as freedom and equality allowed itself to become victimized by a measly trickle of limited consciousness.

More on leadership left and right

P.S. Certainly functioning of the brain is more complex than right or left side specialization but there has been no paradigmatic shift regarding the contributions of such specialization to decision-making processes. There have been challenges, advances in understanding and the raising of good questions. And some day it may all seem pedestrian. But there remains much to be said for using more rather than less of the potential our brains offer -- to be less limited. When leaders prefer to do otherwise or are incapable of such stretching, the results are seldom, if ever, good.

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