Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to Become an Intuitive Leader

Edward de Bono in his classic Six Thinking Hats speaks of intuition. He says there are two types of intuition. The first type of intuition is the sense of a sudden insight. So something that you perceived in one way is all of sudden perceived in a different way. The second type of intuition intrigues me, as it relates to leadership, in the sense that great leaders have this type of intuition and average leaders do not. This powerful type of intuition is, 'the immediate apprehension or understanding of a situation' (Six Thinking Hats, page 57).

Intuitive leaders have the ability to look at a situation, and say, 'you know, we need to head in this direction'. De Bono says that this intuition is, 'the result of a complex judgement based on experience' (page 57). When you watch sport, you see some players who have intuition - take a game of rugby for instance. The player is running towards the line and is about to get slammed to the ground by the opposition, and intuition tells him, there's one of his players to the back left of him, ready to receive the ball. The player might see him in the corner of his eye, but his experience of the game tells him this player will be ready for the ball, as the ball is passed to him. This intuitive decision to pass the ball and not to go for 'the try' himself, is a rapid intuitive decision based on experience and judgement.

Why do some entrepreneurs buy into a new franchise, when everyone else says that they're crazy? Probably because they have some intuitive sense that the industry is going to turn around. Why does a leader employ a particular person, who others say are not suitable for the position? Probably because they understand from experience who will be the right person for the job. Television networks make decisions on intuition regularly. Sure, they look at the facts and they discuss the research, but in the end, some new television shows are introduced on the board room's intution. What research could suggest that 'So you think you can dance' would have been such a success? It was no doubt, a decision based on the intution of a few.

The question then remains - how do you become an intuitive leader? I think the key idea regarding intuition is to make complex judgements based on experience and knowledge. Intuitive leadership will take time to develop. When I think of my own journey, my ability to make good decisions grows as I learn more about the organisation I am apart of and as I experience more within the realms of that organisation.
  • We will make better decisions employing people, when we understand people's personalities, how character affects their job, how important their industry knowledge is/or should be, etc.
  • We will make better financial decisions, when we understand the financial systems back-to-front, and understand from past experience what has worked and hasn't worked, and why.
In my albeit limited experience as a Salvation Army Officer, I am faced with the need to make leadership decisions based on intuition very regularly. As a minister of a Salvation Army Church, I am faced with questions like, 'Should we start a new congregation to reach the youth in our city?' 'How can we better serve the Indigenous people?' 'Should we spend that $10,000 on that minor development, or should be hold it in the bank until we can do that $300,000 extension?' As my experience grows, and as my knowledge base expands, my ability to make good, sound, intutive leadership decisions increases.

As a Christian, I would like to offer the comment, that the Holy Spirit can plant an idea in your mind, or give you guidance on a particular journey. The Holy Spirit is like, the ultimate intuitive leader, who knows which way to head,  what decision to make and when we should make it. With that in mind, I would like to suggest, that to become an intuitive leader you need to do the following:
  • Grow and learn from experience within your particular field
  • Develop a knowledge base for your particular field
  • Listen to the voice of God, who is the ultimate intuitive leader, who sent Jesus to earth, to show us life, leadership, morality and above all, salvation.
Some of this blog is attributed to Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats, 1985. How to become an intuitive leader is written by Pete Brookshaw. For more on becoming an intuitive leader, see my post on John C. Maxwell's Law of Intuition.

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