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Lead With Intellect vs. Emotion

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I recently read an interesting article on compensating for emotional or intellectual leadership styles.   The article described the balance between the intellectual (or cognitive) and the emotional side of our leadership styles. In a literal sense, we never make purely “rational” decisions — the emotional side of our brain is always involved to some degree. As the latest research from neuroscientists point out, feelings guide and inform everything we do, and our emotions help the brain (consciously and unconsciously) make sense of those feelings. From a clinical perspective, someone who is truly dissociative is not healthy and you would not want them in a leadership position.

I realize the author is using the term loosely, but I have worked with leaders who take great pride in being “unemotional,” a term they seem to feel is synonymous with rational. Simply put, pure “rationality” prevents one from gleaning the intelligence from the emotions. Emotions orient us, tell us what’s important, and inform our decision-making constantly. If one is “dissociative” or cut off from emotions, making the simplest of decisions becomes problematic. If you have heard my presentation on employee engagement, you understand how important the role of emotion is in the workplace.

But as the author has said, the notion of balance is the key point. It is less about two “separate” styles than it is about flexible movement along a continuum. Getting stuck in any one position, unwilling or unable to shift according to the situation is a key challenge for today’s leaders. I see it most pronounced in managers — promoted to a position where they are now expected to lead but the promotion didn’t include any new skills to actually lead human beings.

BEST PRACTICES TIP:  Be careful about seeing emotion and intellect as two distinct styles or states of mind.  While someone’s behavior may comfortably “fit” into one of these categories, our brains do not operate distinctly in one or the other.  It’s always both.

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