How to integrate intuition skills into day-to-day leadership

I’ve been observing an interesting leadership trend that deserves some deeper reflection. In our western culture, leaders are generally driven by data and metrics in daily decision-making. The other side of the leadership equation, though, is a leader’s abstract intuitive skills.

Albert Einstein discovered this balance early on, saying, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

So what is the gift?

Intuition is about listening to your subconscious mind (gut instinct) to pull forward information and feelings that you’ve accumulated over a lifetime. Warriors have to rely on instinct, using every possible sense from outside and every stirring from inside to stay alive. Having a good visual memory for shapes and landforms is crucial for a military pilot. Being able to store and recall patterns of logic and information is important for an entrepreneur or businessperson.

Emotional memory is probably the strongest memory that we have, and it’s also the one most quickly accessed. Emotional memory is the one we feel in our gut, and it helps us access the gigabytes of memory stored in our subconscious faster than any processor yet made.

So intuition is this stream of awareness that flows from our subconscious to our conscious, but it requires tuning in to hear the signal.

Learning intuition

Can it be learned? The short answer is yes, but the issue is whether you will develop your awareness and then allow intuition to move from your gut to your mind. It’s not a problem when data is tagged with emotions; it’s ready for quick retrieval and usually easy to access. At other times, it’s as simple as stopping to ask yourself, “What is my gut telling me about this — what is my intuition?”

Sometimes data needed for intuition needs help in getting to our awareness, and this situation is where we have to be more intentional about accessing it. It usually means taking time to shut down our rational thinking and reflect usually in a quiet setting away from distractions.

Sounds a lot like meditation and prayer, doesn’t it? I believe it’s very similar and can be the same. Reflecting, waiting and listening with our feelings for insight is a practice used by wise people throughout the history of civilization, and in our increasingly fast-paced society it’s a lost art. If we ignore or fail to cultivate the intuitive half of our decision-making abilities, we become less than our best as leaders and merely rely on the facts at hand.

Awareness of yourself and others’ natural behavior is also a strong element to developing intuition. Leadership assessments like Leadership Behavior DNA summarize these behaviors, and your mind can access these results after you’ve reviewed and used them.

Lee Ellis, a former POW during the Vietnam War, is the president of Leadership Freedom LLC.