Oh, I’m sure his mama beat it out of him since left handedness was considered a disability, if not a sign of evil back in the day. But evidence of Peter’s right-brained dominance abound…
He was intuitive (“you are the Christ, the Son of the living God”)…
Impulsive (“Lord, if it really is you call me out to walk on the water, too”)…
An out-of-the-box thinker (“Lord, let’s build three tents – one for you, one for Elijah, one for Moses”).
Peter was also called a pillar of the church. He was the spokesman for the Twelve at Pentecost, the healing agent outside the temple, and the breakthrough change agent when the Gospel was first preached to Gentiles.
In short, Peter was what we would refer to today as “presidential” –at least in his raw abilities – although he would drive his publicist crazy. Maybe that’s why 5 out of the last 7 U. S. presidents have been left-handed when only 11% of the total population is. Right-brained dominance has more to do with big picture ideas, sensing and expressing emotions, intuition and creativity.
But guess who usually gets to implement those ideas? The other 90% of the population who live in a world of strategic plans, data and statistics, and (my favorite), endless assessments.
That’s not to say that vision and inspiration leadership is the sole domain of the creative types. Exhibit A: The Apostle Paul. Want some proof Paul was right-handed? Read Romans. Paul was a strategist. A planner. Always three moves ahead of where he was at the time (check out his travel plans in 1 Corinthians 16).
A Strategic Planning “Discussion”
Could you imagine a meeting between Paul and Peter about strategic planning for the church….?
Paul: So what’s your strategic plan for the coming year in your ministry?
Peter: Ownno. (That’s Southern for “I don’t know.”)
Paul: What do you mean you don’t know?
Peter: I’m just praying and trusting God to lead me, I guess. I sure didn’t plan to preach on the day of Pentecost. I didn’t plan to heal the lame man outside the temple. I didn’t plan to have an angel break me out of jail. And I SURE didn’t plan to visit with that Gentile Cornelius. Why, what’s your plan?
Paul: Well, my long term plan, of course, is to get to Rome, then carry the gospel to Spain. But short-term, I want to revisit some of the churches Barnabas and I launched on our first two missionary journeys. I need to get back to Macedonia for sure, and I’m planning to spend some extended time in Ephesus. I’ve also made some plans for Titus, Timothy, Aquilla and Prisilla. I tried to get Apollos on board, too, but he’s got a mind of his own. So I’m working on some contingency plans for Corinth.
Paul: Are you listening to me?
As I have given more thought to that, however, the difference was more than in personalities or brain hemispheres. Both Paul and Peter would tell anybody who asked that their vision was to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. But in the economy of God, Peter’s “ends of the earth” was mostly confined to Israel, namely Jerusalem. And all his life he struggled at times with a local mentality (check out that embarrassing episode in Antioch that Paul describes in Galatians).
Paul, on the other hand, was a product of a culturally blended family and had a cross-cultural vision. He referred to himself as the “Apostle to the Gentiles,” but the word literally means “nations” or “peoples.” When Paul preached the riches of Christ, he did so with a global vision but a local application. He also was an organizer, a team builder, and an expert in follow-through.
Implications for Leaders Today
1. The best leaders use both sides of their brains. It takes both to succeed in the long term, and leaders need to learn to use both.
2. Different leadership challenges are better suited for different kinds of thinking. That’s why in organizational life, the creative inventor-types often give way to the more structured corporate types. “Take it to the next level” isn’t just jargon – it’s the reality that sometimes your organization is better off with more structured leadership.
3. Teams must have both kinds of thinkers. A team loaded with nothing but freestyling dreamers becomes chaos in motion. A team loaded with nothing but procedure and structure-Nazis becomes a frozen bureaucracy.
4. Regardless of your brain orientation, you have a place of influence at the table if you learn to lead from your position of strength. And you do have a position of strength.
5. Abilities – and people – change. None of us are frozen in time. Paul never stopped being a visionary strategist, but he learned to be very flexible and imaginative in his approach to different settings. Peter never stopped being impulsive and creative, but as time went on he actually became much more a listener and less of a talker. His letters have a completely different feel than the thunderous oratory he delivered when the church was first born. You, too, can and should grow if your influence is to succeed long-term.
6. Your amazing brain has a less-used half. Exercise it, for crying out loud. You don’t have to apologize for being who you are or be jealous of us left-handed people (oops… how’d that get in there?). Do something that stretches the other half of your dominant brain.
7. Recognize the immense value in appropriate diversity. Get feedback from different gift and skill sets, different genders, and different generations. (I’m getting some of my best insights from three- and four-year-olds.) Team up with people who think differently from you! They will annoy you, scare you, intimidate you, even disappoint you. But you will also make each other stronger.
What are you doing today to lead and increase from your strengths, but staff and grow in your weaknesses?