Survey after survey has noted that top leaders are able to make tough decisions, in part, because they have learned to trust their intuitive instincts. Henry Mintzberg of McGill University said, "Organizational effectiveness does not lie in that narrow-minded concept called rationality. It lies in the blend of clear headed logic and powerful intuition."
Intuitive people tend to be able to plunge right into a problem, gathering information and facts on the run while also listening for that inner voice that speaks truth. People looking in from the outside might interpret these actions as impulsive. In reality, they are able to make quick decisions based on a lifetime of accumulated wisdom and understanding.
While intuition does appear stronger in some people than in others, I believe that any leader can learn to be more intuitive. It is simply a matter of learning to trust your heart.
Sometimes the first step toward trusting your heart is simply acknowledging and letting go of our absolute trust in logic. Roy Rowan said, "This feeling, this little whisper from deep inside your brain, may contain far more information - both facts and impressions - than you're likely to obtain from hours of analysis."
I don't have to know how an internal combustion engine works to drive a car. Neither do I have to know why I know what I know! Intuitiveness will also be stifled if we believe we cannot change, should not change, or if we refuse to cultivate a flexible attitude.
There is a certain element of risk in intuitive leadership, but that is the very nature of leadership. André Gide said, "One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." A neglect of cultivating intuition results from doing what is safe and secure. I can't think of very many things of value that are won by staying safe and secure.
While leaning on your intuition is a leadership advantage, it can also be a weakness. You'll gain the trust of others when your intuitions lead to good decisions. And you'll forfeit trust when you fail because you continually ignore the wise advice of those around you. Robert Heller said, "Never ignore a great feeling, but never believe that it's enough." Great leaders learn to trust the intuition of their confidantes as well.
I've tried to pay attention to how I make a decision, and here are some steps I've developed for tapping into my intuitive instincts:
1. Write down the issue at hand.
2. Identify as many options as possible.
3. Pull away from the process and pray.
4. Start playing out consequences of your options, eliminating them one by one.
5. Bounce a couple of your top options off of wise people both inside and outside your organization.
6. Do a heart check. This involves looking at:
My motive - "Why am I doing this?"
My responsibility - "Should I be doing this?"
My emotional status - "Can I feel right about doing this?"
7. Make a decision.
8. Hold to that decision. No leader ever reaches perfection when it comes to decision making. But a leader who strives to obtain all the facts possible, who trusts the intuition of his or her team members, and who cultivates and trusts his or her own intuition will have a batting average good enough for the Hall of Fame!
John C. Maxwell is an internationally-acclaimed author and speaker on the subject of leadership. Learn more at http://www.johnmaxwell.com/. © Copyright 2001 by The Injoy Group. All rights reserved.