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Full-Brained Leadership

The kick-off presenter at Willow Creek's 2007 Arts Conference was a renowned photographer. Twenty-some years with National Geographic, Dewitt Jones wowed the audience with his photos ? people and nature in rare and breathtaking candor. As the photos scrolled, he spoke of falling in love with life. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Immersing oneself in the moment at hand and being fully, unabashedly aware.

To a few leaders looking for "the download," Dewitt's message may have seemed like a disconnect. They may have come for the latest trends in worship music. Tips to tweak their worship sets. Lessons in smooth segues. Places to get good drama scripts. New video and audio technologies.

But Dewitt wasn't speaking to any of this.

This soft-spoken master of the camera humbly and simply drew attendees into the why. Into the reasons they do what they do. Into the core of what it means to be here on this earth, alive and in attendance in God's creation. Could he have given them a Photography 101 workshop? Of course. Could he have wowed them with a hands-on session, "How to Spice Up Your Worship Screen in 10 Easy Steps." Absolutely. But he didn't. Instead, he taught about being fully and unapologetically alive. About seeing the divine in a dew-drop. About experiencing God in a little boy's face.

From a craftsmen who knows every bell and whistle of every camera invented, lessons in seeing may have seemed like a waste. (Hey, Dewitt, I just want to know how to get my camera off the auto-setting?I think it's stuck in that position!) But bells and whistles are just tools. Without the ability to see what is there, they mean nothing. Michelangelo wasn't known for his great chisels. He was known for seeing the David trapped inside the stone.

To create - whether photography, painting, inventing, composing, or leading - is to access that part of our brains and souls that isn't consumed with the how. It is concerned with the essence of what is before us. It is the overflow of awareness. And increasingly, those who are the most aware in our world and who have the ability to express that awareness - those are the people who are leading our culture.

In his book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel H. Pink talks about "a future that has already arrived": a world increasingly transformed and propelled by right-brain thinking. In Pink's analysis, the age of left-brain dominance is gone. We may have been prodded to define success as lawyers, accountants, software engineers, and hard science. According to Pink, it's now the designers, entertainers, counselors, caregivers, inventors, teachers, and storytellers who are holding sway.

Pink writes:

"Ascendant in the Information Age, L-Directed Thinking (left brain) is exemplified by computer programmers, prized by hardheaded organizations, and emphasized in schools?.R-Directed Thinking (right-brained) is a form of thinking and an attitude to life that is characteristic of the right hemisphere of the brain - simultaneous, metaphorical, aesthetic, contextual, and synthetic.

"Left-brain thinking used to be the driver and right-brain-style thinking the passenger. Now, R-Directed Thinking is suddenly grabbing the wheel, stepping on the gas, and determining where we're going and how we're going to get there. L-Directed aptitudes ? the sorts of things measured by the SAT and deployed by CPAs ? are still necessary. But they're no longer sufficient. Instead, the R-Directed aptitudes so often disdained and dismissed ? artistry, empathy, taking the long view, pursuing the transcendent ? will increasingly determine who soars and who stumbles."

You may have a very healthy left brain, and in Pink's estimation, left and right are meant to work together (i.e., you don't have to trash your left-brain in order to release your right.) But if you're left-brain heavy, it may be time for you to begin using other skills. The skills you haven't trusted, simply because it wouldn't be safe to use them. They wouldn't fit the mold. Lessons in self-editing and disempowerment, reinforced so often in school, work, ministry, and relationships.

Who knows. It may be your time to carve your own David.

July20, 2007 at 4:49 PM

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