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What Leaders Need To Know About Intuition And Decision Making



What Leaders Need To Know About Intuition And Decision Making

A leadership role involves rational thinking and critical analysis. But many leaders also rely on their ‘gut feeling’ to make important decisions. Today, we have scientific evidence that our gut instinct is more than just an emotional response to situations. When we rely on our gut, we’re working with our ‘second brain’. 

In this post, we’ll look at why intuition matters in leadership and why relying on gut feelings is a good way to function. 


The role of intuition in leadership and decision making

Business literature has no shortage of stories where leaders make groundbreaking decisions that lead to great results based on their gut instincts.

Leaders like Reed Hastings, the co-CEO of Netflix, and Harrison Ford of Ford Motors are known for relying on their intuition to grow their businesses. Bill Gates is also credited with saying “Often you just have to rely on your intuition.” 

Even when working with data, insights from experts, and extensive analysis, leaders often make important decisions based on how they feel. 

This is something of a controversial discussion as there are arguments for and against relying on intuition. There are also numerous anecdotal cases that celebrate intuitive decision-making and disparage it when it goes wrong. 

However, today, we have scientific evidence supporting reliance on intuition. Contrary to what many people believe, our intuition is more than an emotional response to a situation. In the next section, we’ll take a brief look at how intuition works and why we can trust it in managing our businesses. 


The science behind gut instincts

One of the most important findings in neuroscience in the 19th century is that the gut contains the ENS or the enteric nervous system. This system contains contain several hundred neurons. So, our gut doesn’t just manage digestive functions, it also affects feeling states and intuitive decision making through the flow of chemicals and hormones traveling between the brain and the gut. 

These findings have led to our gut being called the second brain. So, when we’re relying on intuition or gut feelings, it’s based on neurological processes. When we feel stress and even happiness, one cause can be the influence of gut microbiota on the level of serotonin, a hormone that regulates feelings of happiness. 

What this tells us that our gut feelings convey important information that we may not be aware of at a conscious level. It’s important to pay attention to our intuition alongside factual data. And many times, relying on gut instinct can be the right thing to do. 


How to improve your decision making with gut-level feedback

Now that we’ve looked at the basis of intuition, we need to improve our ability to leverage this valuable and effective means of processing information. 

A great starting point is to be aware that there’s a neurobiological basis behind our intuition and that it’s a way for us to make sense of the world around us.

Let’s look at other steps that will create clarity and ensure that your optimizing the use of your brain and your ‘second brain’.


Gather extensive information

Before you can make the best decision for your business or personal life, you need to gather as much information as possible about the situation you’re dealing with.

Talk to your partners, employees, and even mentors about a business problem you’re facing and get their viewpoints. Do research by looking at analytics from your website, app, and other platforms that you use. 

You can also look at what customers are saying by checking out reviews and ratings for your products and brand. If you make getting surveys and asking for customer feedback a regular practice, you have more sources of important information. 

Also, it’s important for leaders to stay updated on industry news and developments in leadership and management literature. Make it a practice to read books, do online courses, listen to podcasts, and also follow thought leaders on social media. 

The more information you collect, the more your brain has to work with. And you’ll be able to get the best outcome since your brain will have extensive information to work with. 


Have precise goals

Setting goals is critical because it’s only when we give our brain a specific goal that it can work towards making it real. Here are a few tips to make your goal-setting more effective. 

  • Start by focusing on a few goals. When you have just a small number of targets to work on, you’ll be able to give them more attention and find helpful solutions
  • Make your goals as specific as possible so that when you make a decision, it’ll help achieve that particular goal
  • Represent your goals in a visual format. The brain works very well with images. So, try to use digital or physical photos to represent your targets and refer to them regularly. This will send feedback to your mind that guides your thinking of making good decisions


Have a healthy lifestyle

There’s a strong connection between better mental performance and good lifestyle habits. To ensure that you optimize your brain and gut functioning, here are some simple habits to develop: 

  • Sleep regularly and for at least eight hours a night
  • Drink several glasses of water a day to stay hydrated
  • Eat foods with healthy fats and eat probiotic foods

These tips are common sense recommendations but their impact can be life-changing. Good sleep, hydration, and other healthy habits allow your brain to rest. You’ll boost your mental performance and support better decision making. After all, since there’s two-way communication between your brain and your gut, it makes sense to reinforce your mental abilities and by extension, your leadership skills by taking care of your mental and physical health. 



We’ve just looked at how a leader’s gut feeling has a basis in reality. Your intuition is your brain working to provide you with important information so that you make the right decision at a critical moment. 

Use the information and tips provided here to enhance your mental performance. When you’re aware of how your gut feelings can support you and how to leverage them, you’ll become a more effective leader and grow your business

Syed Balkhi is an award-winning entrepreneur and co-founder of OptinMonster, a powerful conversion optimization software. He is also the founder of Awesome Motive the company behind several popular small business software that collectively power over 3 million websites and serves billions of page views every month.