Key Leadership Trait #9 – Intuition published an article recently listing its nominations for the top 10 attributes of a great leader. I have been working through the list this summer and land today on #9 – Intuition.


My background comes less from the big corporate world and more from the entrepreneurial side. At first blush I would say that for the entrepreneur, there is no greater attribute than intuition. This is where the cycle of creativity starts. That hunch, that idea, that nugget of a thought. As entrepreneurs, we know that only one out of a hundred ideas will come to reality in some way. But that’s alright with us. The great successes of our day come from someone’s intuition. Gates with the home computer the computer and Jobs with his many visons to name two of the most famous modern day entrepreneurs.


For me, leaders have to be part entrepreneurial and thus they need to be intuitive. Regardless of the size of the organization, there is an element of the unknown in so much of what we do as leaders. We are constantly challenging the norm and experimenting with new ideas and concepts and even internal processes that can make us more efficient.


Call it the ‘gut feeling’ or intuition; this is the key element to innovation and growth – regardless of the size of the organization.
But there are two factors that play a major role in the effective employment of intuition according to an article recently published by The Harvard Business Review called ‘Intuition Isn’t Just about Trusting your Gut’. They surveyed numerous CEO’s about their biggest decisions as leaders – good and bad. In almost all cases they confirmed that the original idea came from a ‘gut’ feeling.


The two factors:

1. In most of these cases, the leaders all had strong subject matter expertise. This gut thing did not just fall from the sky. Research, education, experience all played together to produce the ‘gut feeling’.


2. An understanding of yourself. The article points out that in order for intuition to be productive and ‘in control’ you must have a strong understanding and awareness of how you work, think and process ideas. Here is the obvious admission the intuition is not always right. It needs to be kept in check. Otherwise, you run the risk of acting on some pretty sill ideas and putting everyone at risk.


“The effectiveness of intuition, then, is relative. At its best, the key to effective, intuitive decisions is best conveyed in two wise sayings: “Know your business” and “Know yourself.” The sweet spot for business decisions is when both domain knowledge and self-knowledge are high; when you have the knowledge to shrewdly interpret the facts and the wisdom to steer clear of the biases and destructive emotions that can hinder success.’


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