#286 from Innovative
Leader Volume 6, Number 7
Intuition: A Critical Leadership Skill
a human resource consultant in Austin Texas (phone 512-472-4412),
helps organizations implement creativity.
In my training
and development profession, I’m always on the lookout for what
it is that gets certain people to take the head-of-the-table
chairs in board rooms. These
are the people who deposit huge salary checks and get those big
bonuses. What makes
them so head-of-the-herd? They
have and they heed
According to Dr.
Weston H. Agor, of the Intelligence Company (Cocoa Beach,
Florida), who has written books on intuition, modern corporations
are now testing their top executives for not only how much
intuitive ability they possess, but how much they use this
invaluable, but elusive, mind power.
What, precisely, is
may be an ill-chosen word. You
can match the number of definitions to the number of people you
ask. Dr. Agor boils
it down to “…knowing for sure without knowing for
will say it’s the same as a hunch, a gut feeling, an instinct or
an inner knowing.
well-known author and leader in several fields, calls intuition
his “inner voice.” He
believes that listening to it and trusting it is one of the most
important lessons of leadership that he has learned.
“In fact,” he said in the foreword to the recently
published Intuition at Work, “following what Emerson called the ‘blessed
impulse’ is basic to understanding what leadership and
organizations is all about….”
Perhaps Dr. Jonas
Salk offered the most appropriate definition when he said, “The
intuitive mind tells the logical mind where to look next.”
probably struck another nerve when he said, “Chance favors the
prepared mind.” Many
researchers have discovered that intuitive hints might have proved
baffling if they hadn’t already filled their bright heads with
Intuition is Needed
Ron Schultz, in Unconventional
Wisdom, interviewed what he termed “twelve remarkable
their own words, they explained how intuition can revolutionize
of these respected executives combined awareness of the proverbial
“bottom line” with the not-so-widely-acknowledged veneration
of the “top line,” above the eyebrows.
When is the use
of intuition most helpful to leaders?
when there are insufficient data, or not enough time to
gather the data
when there is too much information, or the data are
when data seem to support several options equally
when decisions have to be made on the spur of the moment,
without time for data-gathering
when a group’s vision has grown cloudy and/or its mission
seems inappropriate or obsolete
That’s when all
the logic, analysis and experience in the world are of little
help, and when circumstances dictate that legitimate decisions be
made and made now.
True leaders also
find intuition of invaluable assistance in
determining new an inspiring visions and the overall
direction of a group or organization
recognizing and employing, to the highest effectiveness,
the abilities of all
individuals in that group or organization
use of this enriching source of deep wisdom doesn’t require the
lowering of shades, lighting of candles, gazing at crystal balls
or burning of incense.
Every hour, in
the broad and unforgiving light of day, corporate leaders—of
global or local amalgamations, groups and teams—are unabashedly
seeking their inner counsel in their own myriad ways.
intuition’s allies believe it is entirely a paranormal function.
I tend to side with the group that feels intuitive knowing
combines elements of logic, experience, memory and
the paranormal. The
latter can bring contributions from other minds which don’t
close the seeker out from an over-arching Creative Mind (whatever
one chooses to call it). The
subconscious mind is constantly stirring those various components
together. When they
form some kind of conclusion, the subconscious (through awareness)
may suddenly present that conclusion to the conscious mind.
Because of this tendency of the subconscious mind to keep
its sorting and matching below conscious levels and to startle the
conscious mind with a “ready-mix,” I sometimes sub-label my
intuition workshops “The Forward Pass and Slam Dunk of the
I feel that being
intuitive is a natural mental ability owned by everyone, although
some have it to a greater degree than others.
Like any ability or skill, intuitive abilities can be
sharpened and made more reliable by consistent and aware practice.
Let me clarify my
own concept of this super sidekick of logic and reason.
As research has shown, intuition resides more in the right
brain than in the left. It
is also more a function of the subconscious than the conscious
mind. I find
intuition related to the physiological condition where lower
brainwave frequencies in Alpha, the frequency at which the
brain’s neurons are primarily firing between seven and ten times
each second—a relaxation state.
for the neophyte in the use of intuition is that such an “inner
voice” can be utterly spontaneous or can be the result of a
deliberate process. There’s
a way to intentionally set in motion one’s request for intuitive
assistance in decision-making, design or future-planning.
The ideal time
for such a purposeful approach is bedtime. We have two natural Alpha brainwave frequency times:
when we’re drifting off to sleep and when we’re waking.
These are called our hypogogic and hynopompic periods, and
they are both relaxed but
aware. So we can
lie down, get calm, and at the
natural-Alpha-just-before-entering-sleep time explain to our
subconscious mind what we
already know about a situation, what help we need and by when we
need it. In
short, we can make a specific assignment to the subconscious and
go on blissfully to sleep.
conscious mind has bowed out, the subconscious is free to explore
all its rich sources. It
can use the sleep period to tap into the minds of people who
don’t close it out; to check on memory and experience; to
investigate its paranormal sources which the conscious mind
can’t reach; to confer with an overarching Intelligence.
This is the mind’s vast intuitive capability.
Then when we have
reached our hypnopompic “coming-out-of-sleep” time, the
subconscious can present to the awakening conscious mind its
all-night findings. We
have the testimony of many great thinkers, researchers and
inventors to confirm this approach to intuitive help.
The time we allow for the subconscious to explore its more
hazy realms is known as “incubation time” and it may be our
most rewarding gift to our personal creative process.
Furthermore, it need not be saved until night.
It can function for us at any quiet time when the
subconscious is given free rein.
Now that the
horse-and-buggy days have long been replaced by the global gallop,
there’s a greater need for intuitive knowing in all phases of
contribution to personal guidance as well as to business acumen
cannot be denied. But in the realm of leadership, intuitive wisdom
is now a sine qua non.
Many bright minds in our professional literature agree.
So let’s acknowledge intuition, and rely on it when logic
and analysis aren’t sufficient.
Books on Intuition
Remarkable Innovators Tell How Intuition Can Revolutionize
Decision Making. Ron Schultz (HarperBusiness, New York), 1994.
Work: Pathways to
R. Frantz and A. N. Pattakos, eds. (Sterling and Stone, San
Francisco, California), 1996.
Workout: A Practical
Guide to Discovering and Developing Your Inner Knowing.
Nancy Rosanoff (Aslan Publishing, Santa Rosa, California),
Left and Right Brain Management Skills.
Weston H. Agor (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New
Mystic: A Guidebook
for Visionaries With Their Feet on the Ground.
Gay Hendricks and Kate Ludeman (Bantam Books, New York),
The New Frontier of Management.
Jagdish Parikh (Blackwell Business, New York), 1994.