According to a conversation between Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and psychologist Gary Klein, one of the ways we define leaders is by their ability to make decisions and trust their instincts. In an era of technology and information overload, how can you listen to your intuition with confidence? Below is an explanation of how to find your intuition, strengthen it and use it like a skill.
The Science of Leadership
“Really great leaders have very high emotional intelligence. It’s not about IQ, but more about self-awareness of strengths and limitations,” said Robin Ross, founder of RSR Advisory LLC, a coaching and consulting firm, which enables her to explore the neurology of leadership. “In regard to intuition, leaders have honed in on their self-awareness and can listen to that voice coming from within.”
Ross explains that your intuition comes from the oldest part of the brain.
“True intuition taps into the subconscious part of the brain, the basal ganglia. It’s the same part of the brain that remembers patterns and memory,” said Ross. “What’s interesting is that the basal ganglia is also connected to the intestines so a gut instinct really is a gut instinct.”
One part of the brain that Ross says is not directly connected to the basal ganglia is the language center, or the area known as the prefrontal cortex.
“There is no direct connectivity to the verbal cortex so when someone says they have a gut feeling but can’t put it into words, there is a reason why.”
Ross explains that there are times when you have to question your intuition.
“If you have past situations that are bubbling up and you know the correlation is wrong,” explained Ross, “this would be a good example of a time to listen to your intelligence, not your intuition.”
She said another example where questioning your intuition might be necessary would be when you are in a completely new situation and past experiences would not bear any resemblance to the outcome of the new event.
“When in highly volatile situations women should look at all the factors, not just their gut reactions. However if they have looked at all the data and it still doesn’t add up, trust your gut,” said Ross.
According to Ross, one way to benefit from a strong intuition is to bring it up in job interviews.
“Think about a time when intuition helped you avoid a difficult situation and relay it in the interview,” she said. “Weave stories into the conversation about times you were successful or overcame a challenge due to your intuition.”
Having a strong intuition can be a key component of your career advancement, so how can you learn to strengthen this intangible skill and apply it in the workplace?
Tips to Strengthen Your Intuition
Ross explained that everyone has the ability to hone in on intuition and sharpen it like a skill.
Here are a few tips on how to strengthen your intuition:
1. Writing is one way to increase your emotional intelligence. By writing, you create objectivity and understanding around your emotions. When you feel something bubbling up, label it. By writing, or journaling as Ross put it, you strengthen connections with the verbal part of your brain.
2. Take a breather. Take a walk before going to your next meeting. Sit outside and listen to all the sounds around you. Meditate. Activities that hone in on your core, or center, will help you clear up room for intuition to grow.
3. Build your portfolio. If you want to be a web designer, enroll in graphic design classes. Produce your own online news segment, if you want to be a broadcast journalist. The more confident you feel in areas you want to pursue, the easier it will be to listen to your gut.
4. Eat healthy. According to Dr. Jessica Hehmeyer, a functional nutritionist at Aligned Modern Health, studies have shown that blood sugar mis-management such as; overloading on carbohydrates, leads to difficulty concentrating, foggy thinking and fatigue. What you eat correlates to physical symptoms and can interfere with your intuition.
5. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Work with people that challenge you, motivate you and inspire you. Surround yourself with the people you want to be. Their skills and approach to challenges will rub off on you.
Climbing the corporate ladder is tough. Everyone shouldn’t just use, but sharpen the skills they already have. By journaling, centering and eating healthy, you can strengthen your intuitive skills to help you in the office and on your leadership path. These tips prove there is an art to leadership, not just a science.