Better Balance = Wiser Choices

THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS to long-term success, and that’s why balance is critical when it comes to the mindset of a leader.

The recent worldwide recession has definitely impacted leadership thinking patterns. As many leaders seek to resolve internal issues through cost-cutting strategies, organization flattening and process streamlining, they must also work to focus on external issues, striking a critical balance between the two mindsets of the brain – the left, geared toward creative planning, and the right, geared toward risk management and protection.

There are no shortcuts to long-term success, and that’s why balance is critical when it comes to the mindset of a leader. Yes – it may look easier to cut costs, reduce headcounts or defund programs, but such actions almost certainly have implications. For instance, I recall a firm whose leadership chose to cut its marketing staff and budget only to discover after launching a promising new product that fizzled  due to insufficient marketing. Although those cuts were made to protect the company, they actually hurt the company at the end of the day, because the launch of a highly anticipated product had to be delayed. Instead of panicking in an effort to protect, a wise leader might have focused on strategic creative planning that would have kept that marketing team, or some form of it, in place.

In my latest book, Brilliant or Blunder: 6 Ways Leaders Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity and Complexity, I discuss why it is critical for leader’s to maintain a strategic balance between the two hemispheres of the mind. The three mindsets of the left hemisphere are:

  • Inventing: New products
  • Catalyzing: Customer satisfaction; Market share
  • Challenging: Preparing for new and future business models

As a leader, the left hemisphere mindset may come easy to you, but it is critical to maintain a balance between the left and right sides of the brain. So, while your left side is working furiously to prepare a new business model, the right side of the brain is tasked with removing risk and maintaining the status quo. The three mindsets of the right hemisphere are:

  • Developing: Organization policy and structure
  • Performing: Quality, cost and ROI
  • Protecting: Collaborative culture, high-performing talent, succession planning

Just as you need to balance short-term goals with long-term opportunities, the Yin and Yang of these hemisphere focal points are continually shifting. Walking the tightrope between them requires wise decisions based on clear insights into present circumstances and an awareness of past traditions. With those in place, you can look forward to a sustainable future.

Remember that wise decision-making about hitting a single home run. Instead, it’s about effectively juggling various options and making the right decision in a way that will deliver results the right way.


Dr. Mary Lippitt
Dr. Mary Lippitt
Dr. Mary Lippitt is an award-winning author of "Brilliant or Blunder: 6 Ways Leaders Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Complexity.” She founded Enterprise Management Ltd. in 1984 to provide leaders with practical and effective solutions to navigate the modern business climate using situational mastery. Dr. Lippitt is a thought leader and speaker on executing change, optimal leadership, and situational analysis. She currently teaches in the MBA program at the University of South Florida. Mary is also the author of Situational Mindsets: Targeting What Matters When It Matters.

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    • Larry, Thanks for the comment and your point that we frequently lack the language to spell out our thinking. Hopefully, this framework will create a common language. When I started my professional career, I found I learned more when colleagues were able to explain their reasoning, rather than just give me their conclusion. I have tried to do the same particularly when I am mentoring or coaching someone. Sharing a mental process provides lasting insights. I know that you as someone who has a long track record of mentoring others, helping them think through problems has been practicing this for years. I am so glad that you are so generous in sharing your expertise with others. Mary

  1. Jane,
    Thanks for applying the concepts and finding them useful. When we recognize how we think and how we see things, my hope is that we will find ways to build bridges. In my view if we can honor differences we can stop defining others with absolute terms like wrong, resistant, trouble or label them in some way that creates barriers to cooperation and creativity.

  2. I love the way you describe the activities in each hemisphere of the brain. A few days ago I was trying to explain this to someone because I find it fascinating and so helpful to know how problem solving is really a merging of different parts of our brain. You explain it well. Thank you for this.

    • Jane, Thank you for the comment and happy to hear that you found it helpful. I think we are frequently torn between our choices and knowing that we need to make the best decision for a specific moment in time helps me since I know it is not permanent. Very few choices in life are forever choices. Knowing how to assess the trade-offs between options can frequently lead to new insights. We can find a better decision by carefully thinking about our choices. Mary