There is no disguising the fact that in today’s world it is tough being a leader. If the amount of information that swamps us, (leaving our in-trays and in-boxes awash with things to think about, things to do or just things), is not enough to put up with; we bear the stigma of being perceived as being self-serving, self-seeking and just plain greedy.

Reading many of the papers being produced today it would be reasonable to suggest that the business leader has now overtaken the wicked witch as the world’s favourite ‘baddie’!

And I think it would be true to say that many of the problems faced by our leaders today are of the kind never even thought about during previous university courses, management training or even leadership self-help books.

So what to do? How are we supposed to make successful decisions or decisive actions when we are floundering in a sea of uncertainties?

May I introduce you to a quiet revelation? It’s your intuition.

Oh I know, many men simply dismiss this as being some kind of feminine mystique, a trick that has no basis in fact; and certainly has no place in the hard edged world of business.

But consider this :

A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subconsciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action. ~Jawaharlal Nehru

In fact you have probably being relying on your intuition for a long time. We often recognise the intent, but don’t recognise the reason.

I believe that we can confuse intuition with instinct – and there is a difference.

All military training is designed to ensure that under the pressure of real combat a service man or woman will react instinctively – and that instinctive action is so well drilled in them that it offers the best chance for success and survival.

In this instance repetitive drilling creates an instinctive response to a set of circumstances, so that action is taken without deliberate thought.

But there is little intuition in this.

As a very junior Lance Corporal I was undertaking combat training under the jurisdiction of a Sergeant with considerable combat experience. The scenario led us to adopt a defensive position to repel an expected attack. The Sergeant had studied the maps and the intelligence and had made a rational decision about the likely approach the enemy would take, and had deployed his troops accordingly.

Just before dawn, we were stood to, waiting to repel the expected attack; when out of the blue our Sergeant shouted new orders! Our instinct took over and now instead of facing the front we were in position to defend our flank – just as the enemy troops broke the tree line in their surprise attack.

The defence of the position was successful, but if we had been in the original position it would have been a very different story.

In the debrief the enemy Platoon Commander demanded just how our Sergeant had known that they were planning an attack on the flank – he shrugged his shoulders and said “I can’t say what made me certain that was where you would attack, but I have learned to respect my intuition over the years!”

I think this demonstrates quite clearly the differences between using our instinct and our intuition.

There is some reason to suspect that our brain has two distinctive functions – one rational and logical and the other creative and intuitive. We have been taught that it is rational and logical thinking that achieves successful outcomes, but that may not be true:

“The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why.” ~ Albert Einstein  – And perhaps Einstein should know,

Intellect has been extolled as a manly virtue, while Intuition has mostly been attributed to females –‘Women’s Intuition’ has often been scathingly dismissed by those dedicated to rational and logical explanations – and it maybe true that the unique requirements of motherhood may make women more attuned to the silent signals that could trigger our intuitive response.

Agatha Christie thought so :

Women observe subconsciously a thousand little details, without knowing they are doing so. Their subconscious mind adds these little things together–and they call the result intuition.

But in reality, we are all gifted with intuition; it is whether we choose to trust it that is the problem. So maybe this will help:

All great men are gifted with intuition. They know without reasoning or analysis, what they need to know. ~ Alexis Carrel –  and then there’s this:

Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level. ~Joyce Brothers

Sometimes we just know what needs to be done, but we don’t know how we know. That is when we need to trust in that small voice – just like my Sergeant did. That way we may not be ambushed on the flank when we are facing the front.

Michele @ Trischel

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