Saar: The entanglement and imbalance of the left and right brain creates a CEO

The human brain is divided into two different hemispheres, left and right, and entrepreneurs are no exception. “Most CEOs in China work with their left brain, while most CEOs in the West work with their right brain,” said Shalom Saar, a professor of management practice at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business and MIT, in an exclusive interview with First Financial Daily.

Saar has taught leadership and management courses at several institutions including Harvard University and the State University of New York. In his years of dealing with and researching global CEOs, he has found that the left-right brain thinking of Chinese and Western CEOs has led to different management differences. In his view, there is no “whole-brain CEO” with a balanced left-right brain.

“In my view, a person with a balanced left-right brain division of labor cannot be a CEO. Because he does not have the entanglement of the left and right brain, that is to say, it is precisely an imbalance that drives him to become a CEO,” Saar told reporters.

Right-brain CEO: Communication and Innovation

It is generally believed that Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple, was a typical right-brain CEO. His disruptive innovation made Apple one of the world’s best smartphone companies and changed the way people use their phones. This shows that innovation is an important function of the right brain.

Another example of right-brain thinking is Jack Welch of General Electric. In a conversation with Professor Saar, Saar found that his daily work focused on communicating with people. In one day, the CEO spent nearly 50% of his time communicating with 200 senior executives in the company. Clearly, right-brain thinking is good at communication and interaction.

But it is obvious that these two cases are both right-brain thinking types, but they are completely two different management styles. “I divide people’s thinking into a framework. Horizontally divided into blue thinking, red thinking and green thinking. Vertically divided into hard (logical) and soft (emotional intelligence) aspects. The former is more reflected in green thinking, where he shows innovation ability in the hard aspect and vision in the soft aspect. The latter is more reflected in red thinking, where he shows strong processing and analysis ability in the hard aspect. In the soft aspect, he is good at communication,” Saar explained the differences between the two right-brain managers.

Left-brain CEO: Passionate Executor

In Saar’s view, most people in the world are more left-brain thinkers, including most business leaders in China who are left-brain leaders. This may have a lot to do with the growing environment of Chinese people. From childhood, children are taught to obey and execute. This also makes it difficult for creativity to be exercised.

“Chinese leaders have a good representation of blue thinking. They are decisive and good at decision-making in hard aspects. They are good at execution and passionate in soft aspects,” Saar believes.

Although left-brain leaders are solid leaders with strong execution ability they lack patience. In addition, left-brain leaders’ communication ability and interactivity are also greatly reduced. In one of Saar’s contacts with Chinese private enterprises a leader was dissatisfied with his deputy for three years but never had a good communication with his deputy about it. Through investigation he found that 40%~50% of entrepreneurs in Chinese private enterprises were dissatisfied with their CEOs which is a clear manifestation of communication problems.

It is generally believed that Chinese CEOs lack innovation ability. Saar believes that this is also closely related to communication “When leaders lack innovation ability they should draw inspiration and innovation from those around them.” This is not simply a communication or a conversation but requires CEOs to listen to others’ ideas with their ears eyes and hearts.

How Chinese CEOs Can Improve

Although there is no data to support that right-brain CEOs have surpassed left-brain CEOs but in order to increase innovation power Chinese companies and CEOs are still working hard. “Learning ability seems to be an innate ability of Chinese CEOs. This is my obvious feeling after contacting 12 countries around the world,” Saar pointed out.

There are many ways to improve and Saar generally advises entrepreneurs to start by understanding themselves. This includes 360-degree comprehensive evaluation and a series of tests. From blue red green three kinds of thinking use scoring method to evaluate their own communication innovation and execution ability. Scorers include CEO’s superiors subordinates friends and family.

After understanding themselves the next step is to understand their team. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of the team and have the opportunity to improve them. Saar said “There is a form called Townhall Meeting in the United States for example where company leaders initiate a dialogue telling employees where the potential for company development lies and where the future development value of the company lies. The CEO has two main responsibilities one is to promote and demonstrate the implementation of company values and the other is to encourage and support achieving these values.” Such valuable dialogue will make everyone clearer about the company’s vision and work towards it.

Saar believes that after understanding where you and your team are lacking you can use a quick remedy method such as brainstorming together with your team if you lack innovation then implement it in a passionate way.

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