Marie-Josée (MJ) Salvas Shaar, MAPP '07, CPT, has studied, tested, coached, and taught smart health habits for over 13 years. Combining positive psychology with fitness and nutrition, she created a coaching method that builds better sleep, food, mood, and exercise habits, as described in her book, Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person's Guide to Optimal Health and Performance, which includes 50 practical health-building activities. Today MJ gives keynotes for corporate wellness programs and offers continuing education for wellness professionals, who can license her Smarts and Stamina Online program. Full bio. MJ's articles are here.
Think about the leaders you’ve followed in the past:
- Which one has had the most positive influence in your life?
- What three words best describe what this person contributes to your life?
Understanding true leadership can be quite mind-boggling. In a recent study bringing more clarity on this complex topic, Gallup interviewed over 10,000 people and asked them the two questions you’ve just answered.
I’ll share the results of their study in a moment, but first, let’s look at how the modern world has evolved in the past couple decades. Before we can understand what makes a good leader great, we must understand the followers’ perspective.
The modern era has been largely shaped by left-brain thinking. The left brain is mainly a logical and rational thinker. It’s the one who loves to know the facts and analyze the stats. It is comfortable with if-then reasoning and step-by step processes. It sees the world through binary lenses – things are either black or white, on or off, adequate or not.
This thinking style has led to large progress in our businesses and economy. From cost-reducing procedures to time-saving strategies, left-brain thinking has brought us material abundance.
So left brain thinking has brought us abundance, and with it, we are looking for beauty, emotion, meaning, quality of life. In other words, we want the right-brain stuff.
The right brain is the creative part of us. This one sees the forest rather than the trees. It loves art and understands human emotions. It is intuitive. It pursues connection and higher values. Once discredited as overly touchy-feely, it is now in high demand.
Daniel Pink, influential author of bestseller A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, predicts right-brain skills to be the driving force shaping our future economy. As consumer demand changes, supply adapts, which further reinforces change in demand and so on. To keep up with all the change, job descriptions are evolving too.
Let’s go back to the toothpaste example. Some job analysts say that workers involved with the research, production, packaging, and marketing of the branded toothpaste have more creative assignments than workers involved with the generic brand. Since most consumers are more sensitive to all the added benefits of the second branded option than they are to the thirty cents increase in price, over time demand for the cheaper brand will decline, and its producers will have to adapt to the new market conditions – and recruit more creative employees.
Workers of the new economy are no longer those who can manipulate massive quantities of information. This job is increasingly delegated to computers. For proof, raise your hand if you plan to use TurboTax or any other software to file your 2008 declaration. See? Rather, the skills of the future are those that come from the right side of the brain.
We have come a long way since Ford’s all black Model T, and the consequences are not only felt in manufacturing plants, but more importantly on the job market. The Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas examined employment trends for the last decade and found that the fastest growing job categories are those that require people skills and emotional intelligence.
So change is coming. To be successful, business leaders need to nurture the right-brain abilities of their staff. It seems that those who can move away from the purely factual leadership style that characterized the information age will flourish and lead the future. Just as it seems that those who hold-on tight to the Model T philosophy won’t.
It is now time to reveal the results of Gallup’s study. The over 10,000 surveyed employees came up with a clear answer. The most influential leaders of their lives were those who built trust, stability, compassion, and hope. They were the right-brain oriented ones.
Pink, D.H. (2005). A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. NY: Riverhead Books.
Pink, Daniel (2010). Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Riverhead Trade. (Added later)
Gallup Inc. & The Gallup Poll (2008). Why People Follow. Washington, DC: Gallup Press.
Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2009). Strengths-Based Leadership. New York: Gallup Press. (Added later)
Shaar, M.-J. & Britton, K. (2011). Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance. Philadelphia, PA: Positive Psychology Press. (Added later)