Know Thyself: Why Leaders Must Look Inwards to Inspire

How Leaders Know When to Trust Their Gut

Being able to make a good decision often relies on more than good data. In order to make good decisions, you need to be a good leader, and for that you need to possess something special.

It seems that the best men and women have an internal wavelength or inner voice that’s able to point them in the right direction. The ability to understand this message and recognize its importance is what can separate the good decision makers from the rest.

These hallmarks of an unspoken intelligence, whether we’re talking about talent, genius, or instinct, are supported by evidence that great leaders can look into themselves for inspiration.

Great leaders are often able to assess and analyze key parts of their lives in order to better understand the lessons they’ve learned, as well as what their own strengths, weaknesses and biases are.

This understanding is used to make themselves better decision makers in a variety of different situations, and this delivers its own energy that stimulates different aspects of their lives.

How can you become one of these great leaders? There are many great examples in history of how great leaders have perfected their intuition, and here we’re going to answer three questions:

  • What is informed intuition?
  • Where do great leaders find guidance for their intuition?
  • How can you improve your intuition skills?

What is informed intuition?

Many decisions in the business environment are based on data and analytics whilst others are the product of a lifetime’s experience. Shelly Row, author of Think Less Live More: Lessons from a Recovering Over-Thinker, believes intuition is essential in a successful decision-making process.

After interviewing leaders from a wide range of backgrounds, Row discovers that those within leadership positions in politics and business make more work decisions based on instinct than those in the legal or engineering sectors.

Her results also show that in the industries where there is less data, leaders are more inclined to digest all the information available in order to come to conclusions in a cognitive and intuitive manner.

As a result, the more inspired decision could be a result of a number of highly valued sources, such as key team members. In these scenarios, the leader relies on their own talent and experience to inform them when there is enough information to address the problem and all that remains is to make a decision.

Where do great leaders find guidance for their intuition?

Great leaders can rely on a variety of sources for their intuition, whether that’s important individuals within their life, the environment in which they’ve lived in or the life experiences they’ve been through. Here are some examples:

Important individuals – Madeleine Albright

The former US Secretary of State relied on her father for inspiration. Throughout his lifetime, Albright’s father was a Czechoslovakian diplomat twice displaced, first by Hitler’s Germany during the Second World War and then by the Soviet regime after the war.

Whenever Albright was facing difficulties in her career, and required strength or focus, she only had to think back to the difficulties her Father faced when the family moved to the US and he became a professor. She would remember him working in the flooded basement with his feet propped up on stacked bricks to keep dry.

Environment - Condoleezza Rice

Another former US Secretary of State, Rice grew up in an environment where education was highly valued, a passion started by her great-grandmother who learned to read as a slave in Alabama. Her grandfather insisted on filling his house with books and encouraged his children to read them.

These academically-strong surroundings had a big influence on Rice and her family; she holds a PhD in political science; her father two master’s degrees; and her aunt a PhD in Victorian literature.

Experiences – Steve Jobs

In 1997, Apple was a tech firm in disarray. Upon Jobs’ return, the company transitioned from offering a multitude of products, to just four. His entrepreneurial eye for simplicity not only saved the company, but also turned it around and he became a paragon of cutting edge technology delivered as simply as possible.

Jobs’ mentality was derived from his years working at Atari. The computer firm’s games didn’t come with a manual and so they needed to be as simple as possible to maximize playability in the pixelated, four- colored dawn of what would become gaming. It was this experience that showed Jobs just how important clarity and simplicity can be.

How can you improve your intuition skills?

Intuition has become widely accepted as a management strategy that is defined as:

‘[the] subconscious ability to integrate information from both sides of our brain. It is simply an extension of logical decision making.’

Use information

Although developing your intuition skills relies largely on life experiences, using information to bridge knowledge gaps can help you to avoid making incorrect decisions.

Assess the emotional impact

Your emotional state will also have an influence over your decision making; being stressed, angry or preoccupied can distort the inner voice and leave you open to stronger negative feelings.

This can be easily combatted:

  • Take a walk to clear your head
  • Refrain from making any big decisions until you feel calmer
  • Avoid your mobile or emails where possible

Regaining emotional balance is of critical importance in order to make the most accurate and intuitive decisions, emotional interference can lead to disaster.

Rational analysis

Embracing a process of rational analysis is a great way to improve intuition. Write ideas down. Doing this physically lifts it out of your brain to make room for idea progressions.

Similarly, you should also write down the criteria for evaluating choices, including key facts, figures and conditions.

By being more mindful about your intuition, and taking active steps to improve it, your subconscious will be given the freedom it needs.

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