The Best Leaders Rely on Their Intuition: True or False?

The idea that the best leaders rely on their intuition isn’t a new concept. For years, countless business experts and analysts have suggested “gut feeling” plays a strong role in any innovator’s chances of success. The question is, how much should strong intuition guide decision making strategies, and how important is it for experts to ensure they’re using logic, reason, and fact?

Why is Intuition Important?

Leaders have long been trained to rely on intuition to make better decisions when faced with complex challenges. This is because analysis, reason, and logic, can generally only take us so far. While many of the best leaders rely on the facts, not intuition alone, they’re also limited by the amount of information available when making any critical choice.

Making decisions based on fact alone requires linear processes, plenty of research, and access to clear measurements to distinguish success from failure. However, many leaders need to make decisions about how to succeed in the future. Unfortunately, the future is something we can never be certain of, no matter how much information we have. The data available will always be incomplete.

Strong intuition can sometimes assist in filling the gaps when it comes to making decisions about things you can’t fully predict. However, the key to success is often blending the two strategies as consistently as possible.

Why is Intuition Important?

On it’s own, strong intuition isn’t always as reliable as it seems. We hire leaders in the sales and marketing world because of their understanding of their market, and this understanding generally informs their “intuition” or “gut feelings” about certain ideas.

However, intuition is an emotional concept, which can often lead us astray. If your gut tells you to double-down on your cold-calling strategy for sales, but your analysis shows you you’re not getting any results from the campaigns you have in place already, the chances are you should ignore your intuition. On the other hand, if no clear defining evidence exists to push your strategy in a specific direction, strong intuition may the only tool you have to guide you.

According to articles like “The best leaders harness the power of intuition”, intuition is something we’ve relied on for centuries for survival. Intuition and emotional intelligence allow us to avoid placing too much importance on one fact over another when assessing a situation. It ensures we can take a step back from the data for a moment, and consider the path that most aligns with our internal knowledge and instinct.

If you have a series of incomplete data points which suggest any sales strategy could help you to improve your revenue as much as the others, then listening to your intuition can be an excellent way to make more rapid business decisions.

When Do The Best Leaders Rely On Fact, Not Intuition?

Strong intuition is a valuable tool in many leadership scenarios. It builds on the concept of “emotional intelligence” which is developed over time as we learn more about ourselves and the people around us, as well as our environment in general.

However, as HBR’s article “Outsmart Your Own Biases” reveals, intuition can sometimes be problematic and distracting. If there are biases in the way we think and assess situations, then our intuition could “override” our sense of logic. When this happens, we’re more likely to make decisions based entirely on emotion, rather than considering all the facts.

As one report found that the senior leaders in many situations don’t rely on intuition when the right information is present. For instance, while you might not feel “right” about a new strategy for your business, if the collective evidence, experience, and input of others goes against your perception, this may be an indication your intuition is leading you astray. It’s easy to get into the habit of relying too heavily on gut instinct and flawed reasoning.

A desire to be right in a specific situation, or a preference for one path over another can easily push us to feel more positively about a certain strategy, when it’s actually not the best method for the business. This is when intuition becomes dangerous.

So, Should the Best Leaders Rely on Their Intuition?

Ultimately, the best decisions are rarely made on analysis or intuition alone. Instead, most leaders need to work on honing their analytical minds and their intuitive mind to make the best decisions. This means learning as much as you can about different perspectives, the industry, and the facts available, as well as knowing how to define when your intuition is correct.

Listening to the skills, perspectives and insights of other leaders can open you up to new ideas and reduce your risk of biases, like in the HYPCCCYCL GTM games. Reading reports and conducting reviews can help you to determine when your intuition has been correct, and when it might have been influenced by external factors.

Leaders need to be able to embrace the complexity of the decisions they need to make, and balance the scales between profound, intuitive insights, and analytical information. Recognizing when your intuition is speaking to you is important, but knowing when to move in the opposite direction to your gut can be extremely valuable too.

Whenever making a decision, leaders need to:

  • Create a base of objectivity: Collecting as much non-biased data as possible.
  • Leverage the power of experience: Access the experience of your own background and the input of peers to enhance your research.
  • Sprinkle in intuition: Add the intuition that makes sense to your situation, and be prepared to learn from the mistakes you make.