Mindful Humans

Thinking like a leader

THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED ON REVUE GESTION WEBSITE.

Do you ever participate in discussions that leave you speechless while a colleague spontaneously chooses the right words to defuse a delicate situation? Do you sometimes observe, with envy, the ability of some experienced individuals to make wise decisions in no time? A foray into the wonderful world of thinking, the kind we want to be rational and the kind that turns out to be more intuitive.
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It is often initially believed that the talent to influence others, think differently, or make sensible decisions comes from pure intelligence, from a person’s reasoning ability. However, it would underestimate the brain to assume that human thought boils down to its rational capabilities alone.

 

Quick as the Intuitive Mental Process

Upon reflection, although the spoken words may be logical, the speed of thought is not the result of a rational process, for the latter is, by definition, slow and sequential.

Let’s say you need to set a budget for a project you’re leading. You gather relevant information and methodically analyze it to draw conclusions. You make a conscious effort, proceed step by step, and reach your decision. Again, it’s rational and slow.

However, in the heat of the moment, in the midst of a lively discussion, for example, there’s no time for rational thinking. Another human thought process then comes into play. It’s an operation that leads to a conclusion, without necessarily being aware of the steps that led to it, although it’s sometimes possible to identify them afterward. This conclusion emerges in your consciousness, often accompanied by a burst of emotion.

On the spot, what enables you to respond to an interlocutor or make a decision? This is where intuition comes into play. The brain’s intuitive process, as discovered by neuroscience a few years ago, has been extensively documented since. The finding? Human thought is the product of two distinct processes: reason and intuition. Whether you know it or not. Whether you want it or not.

 

Combining Intuition and Reason

Among us, some people have a natural propensity for rational logic, and others are mainly guided by their instinct, that is, intuition. But it’s by deliberately choosing to navigate between intuition and reason that one optimizes chances of success. Indeed, reason relies on conscious knowledge while intuition is based on often unconscious knowledge (said to be tacit). Intuition is actually the brain’s ability to make analogies and spontaneously associate the present moment with a past situation, which imposes a conclusion on our consciousness.

Using both reason and intuition allows you to access a vast array of both conscious and unconscious knowledge. An essential quality for success as a leader. Between two possible solutions, your reason may hesitate, but your intuition, strengthened by your expert knowledge, will immediately know which solution is the best.

Paying attention to your intuitions in addition to acting rationally can make the difference between a certain failure and a potential for success. For example, you want an overview of the progress made on a mandate you delegated to one of your employees. You ask all the right questions to inquire about the project’s status, and your employee gives you favorable answers. If you listened only to your reason, you might think everything is going well. But if your intuition detects unease and perceives embarrassment on your employee’s face, you will make the conscious choice to delve deeper into the issue, which could lead you to identify a significant problem.

Our intuitions are not always correct, as they can be based on biases and world models we have created that may be incorrect in the circumstances. However, they are likely to be correct if they are based on our expert knowledge.

 

Intuition Can Be Wrong… But So Can Reason

By navigating between the two, you increase your chances of success as a leader. This does not go against the traditional vision of leadership, which relies on both intellectual and emotional intelligences.

Solving complex problems requires a part of intuition, which guides reason in a direction. Emotion management is also dependent on these two ways of thinking: one to detect, the other to act appropriately. One does not go without the other for success.

 

Thinking Beyond Reason

First of all, it’s important to know that intuition is an innate faculty in every human being. In fact, whether you realize it or not, your intuition guides most of your decisions in a day. As long as the stakes do not justify it, you let it direct you. If every decision had to be rational, the brain would exhaust itself from the effort!

You can develop your ability to navigate between rational and intuitive modes of thinking as follows:

 

1. Pay Attention to Your Intuitions

The first step is to be attentive to the intuitions that emerge. This can be a challenge in our era, where our attention is overstimulated. Focus on what you feel and perceive, beyond the words.

2. Become the Impartial Observer of Your Intuitions

Detecting an intuition is the first part of the work. The second consists of determining if this information is useful to you, by taking a step back.

3. Exercise Your Power of Veto

Once you’ve observed your intuition, you have the choice to ignore it—because it seems to stem from one of your biases—or to take it into account, especially if it’s based on your expertise.

 

Enlightened Leadership

Armed with your intuitions and your ability to assess if they are correct, you will greatly enhance your ability to adapt and influence your interlocutors, make better decisions, and even innovate.

This way, you can achieve greater success in all aspects of leadership: whether it be in delegation, influence, strategy, and execution, to name just a few.

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