Intuition in leadership…really?
For many of us, the word intuition may seem incongruent with leadership.
After all, we’re often taught to leave our emotions out of the office, to rely on hard data, and to seek the counsel of others before making a big decision.
Exactly what is intuition, anyway?
By definition, the Cambridge Dictionary says intuition is:
“an ability to understand or know something without needing to think about it or use reason to discover it, or a feeling that shows this ability”
That sounds like something every leader would benefit from, doesn’t it?
In the real world, we often refer to intuition in some common ways:
- trusting your gut
- following our instincts
- going with “a feeling”
In some parts of our world, intuition is sometimes stereotyped as “woo woo” or “New Age.” Yet, most of us are guided by our intuition on a frequent basis, even if we’re unaware of it.
There does seem to be a cultural component involved. HBR found that leadership styles really are different around the world: in their 2014 International Business report, they reported that 85% of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) leaders found intuition to be important, in contrast to just 54% in the EU (European Union).
Why leaders benefit from leveraging intuition
In today’s increasingly complex, dynamic business world, leaders need as many tools as possible to make effective decisions. Intuition can be thought of as our personal “advisor” when we’re called upon to make key decisions.
Beyond decision-making, intuition may serve as a guide in other areas of leadership as well – in everything from managing daily operations to strategizing solutions to challenges large and small.
As many leaders have discovered, relying exclusively on cognitive processing is not an effective strategy – particularly when the situation is multifaceted. The role intuition plays in leadership is explained well in a Forbes article by Bonnie Marcus, who brings a bit of neuroscience into the discussion:
“Research in neuroscience tells us that the amount of storage in working memory is limited. We need input from all parts of the brain to manage highly complex decisions.”
Marcus suggests that intuition can be especially useful in business settings where the market is rapidly evolving or where the decision that needs to be made has many interconnected components.
How to use your intuition as a leader
“Successful and consistent deployment of intuition, however, requires more than just domain knowledge. It also requires deep introspection, ‘an intense journey into yourself.’”
For many people “intuition” might feel somewhat inaccessible – but it’s not nearly as challenging as you might think to connect more deeply with your intuitive self.
Here are 6 of my favorite tips to help you do just that:
1- Divert your attention. Can’t seem to figure out how to solve a problem? Try a brain break – take the focus off the dilemma and see what happens. Your spark of intuition or that “aha moment” might come when you least expect…
2- Converse with your higher self. Actually, we’re always having a convo with our higher selves – but we’re not always attuned to the messages we’re sending (and receiving). Ask your higher self for the guidance and insight you need to solve a challenging situation.
3- Get creative. Complex problems often need more than a conventional approach, and that’s where intuition comes in. Deepen your intuition by tapping into your creative side to ultimately bring a mix of “head” and “heart” into all that you do.
4- Identify areas of your life where you had an inner knowing…a “gut instinct”…an intuitive feeling. Did you follow it? Why or why not? Bringing an awareness to your intuition can help you use it more effectively in everyday life.
5- Bring intuition into decision-making conversations. Share your own inner feelings, and encourage others to do the same. You may be quite surprised how effective this practice is, and how it can expand your awareness of self and others.
6- Live this beautiful day in the moment. This might be the most important strategy of all. When your mind is fixated on the past or focused on some point in the future, it doesn’t leave much room for you to connect with your higher, intuitive self.
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
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Colleen Slaughter Raue, Managing Partner of Authentic Leadership International
Colleen is a transformational leadership coach who guides international leaders as they attain the clarity, courage and self-confidence necessary to realize higher levels of productivity and fulfillment in both their personal and professional lives.
Her purpose is to facilitate her clients’ transformation from limiting beliefs and self-doubts into a deeper, more powerful knowingness of how much they – and what they envision for themselves – truly matter.
Colleen’s perspectives were recently featured in an article on the International Coach Federation’s website here.