5 Reasons Why You Should Trust Your Instincts as a Leader

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Gut, hunch, intuition – whatever you call your instincts, trusting them is an age-old piece of advice… and rightly so. Realistically speaking though, this is easier said than done. Today’s leaders are often faced with deep consequences and higher levels of accountability for their decisions and actions. In that regard, it makes sense to rely heavily on data or consensus before taking any steps forward. That being said, there’s still plenty of research that show the power of going with your gut feeling, and why it’s a good idea to trust it.

Data is only half of the answer.

Overreliance on data can lead to what is termed ‘management by spreadsheet’. It ignores unquantifiable but nonetheless powerful factors that can greatly affect the results of your decisions. No less than Bill Gates, one of the key movers that shaped our world today, had said, “Often, you have to rely on intuition.” No amount of information can replace a person’s inner guiding force, which can be an incredibly powerful influence. While there is no real shortage of data today, the biggest challenge in leadership and management is in finding the wisdom to act correctly based on the information at hand. This holds true most especially when you’re short on time. That’s something you can do with the help of intuition.

Your brain knows without you knowing.

The fascinating thing about intuition is that it largely occurs subconsciously. You’re never really sure why your gut is telling you to choose one prospective employee over another; why you “just know” a decision is good or bad; and why your brain is pulling you to or away from certain directions. For example, real estate developers may not always know if a certain area will become a profitable business hub or thriving community in the future. Data is invaluable in the process of decision-making, but intuition also helps them “feel” whether a venture will be successful or not, especially the veterans in the field. It might seem like a flimsy basis in an investor’s perspective, but it pays to remember that these instincts are the product of over 200,000 years of evolution. It helped our ancestors survive all manner of challenges and problems in the past. Albeit in a different context, this is still applicable today.

Instincts are formed by a lifetime of experience.

On top of the evolutionary aspect of intuition, studies have also shown that it is also honed through experience. Researchers have found that people who choose by instinct are actively exercising the portion of the brain called the ventral striatum. Situated near the center-front part of the brain, this region is primarily associated with learning motivated by reward. This means that your gut feelings are mainly led by what you’ve learned as a leader over the years. This is why some people have the ability to easily read people around them. Gut feeling can tell you whether a potential business partner is trustworthy. It’s a vital skill for many professionals, particularly in fields like marketing and sales.

Overthinking may lead to bad decisions.

There are countless examples of the pitfalls of overthinking in the workplace, but perhaps some of the best ones are in sports. For instance, novice golfers often think they play better when they’re thinking rationally, but expert golfers say the opposite – the more you analyze your swing and the game, the worse you get. This is because over analysis can lead you to miss key details or overemphasize unimportant ones, and can even be a form of energy vampire. Either way, it throws you off balance. This shows that one key to making good decisions is to listen to your instincts and having the heart to follow through with your choices whatever situation you find yourself in or challenges that you’re faced with. This way, you have better chances of achieving the results you need.

It can bring unconventional success.

Another reason why people often mistrust intuition is because it goes against conventional wisdom. However, history has shown us that some of the best minds often do just that – defying expectations to trust their gut and coming away with unconventional success. From Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs, intuition shows what people can achieve by breaking free from the status quo and following instincts.

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