What is Intuitive Leadership?

In day-to-day operations when things go wrong and there is a problem to solve, the first place that we all invariably go is to the facts surrounding the situation. Through understanding and analysing those facts, we make a decision.  Are decisions based solely on facts combined with previous experience of a similar situation, or do we inject our intuition at some point?

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What is Intuition?

Intuition, considered as a neurocognitive model, as either “Deliberative” or “Creative intuition” provides a framework for considering intuition and the  importance in leadership decision making.

Deliberative intuition – Managerial intuition, problem solving, unconscious constructive deliberation, pattern matching, inferential processing and inferential intuition. 

Creative intuition – Entrepreneurial intuition, radical intuition, experiential non-linear processing, synthesis of unconnected memory fragments, strong emotional (afferent) component, passionate attention, holistic intuition, intuitive insight and classical intuition.

Most of you will be familiar with the psychometric models for assessing intuition, such as MBTI (Myers Briggs), Rational/Experiential Inventory (REI) and Symbolon – Thinking/Feeling, Intuitive/Concrete.  The mere fact that we try to measure the degree of intuition, indicates that this characteristic has some value and importance in the business world, especially when needing to influence and inspire others as in a leadership role. 


How Does Intuition Serve Us?

Research amongst GP’s and Emergency doctors, (Coget & Keller) that explored through interviews the role of initiation, came to the conclusion that intuition is important and a common part of practice in the following areas:

  • A sense that something is wrong – a sense of alarm / sense of reassurance
  • Recognition leading to a quick, non linear diagnosis
  • Insight leading to eureka moments through spontaneous diagnostic realisations and sudden frame shifting
  • Quick assessment – sick or not sick
  • Mismatch – when there is a lack of coherence in the symptoms.

This research shows that the potential advantages of using intuition appear to be speed, accuracy and confidence. Jean-Francois Coget, who carried out this research on intuition, suggests that there is a “Critical Decision Vortex” and this has analytical, intuitive and emotional components.  Coget further suggests that exclusion of any of the three components risks reducing accuracy and speed.  Nygren et al. 2002, supports the idea that intuitive decision making can be more accurate than analytical decision making.

Taking the example of a wild animal grazing – his or her intuition is going to warn about lurking danger, thus stimulating the necessary response to find safety.  When that danger has gone, it goes back to peaceful grazing.  Therefore, intuition is not something that is switched on and off, it is a sixth sense that is with us all the time. For example, choosing from two well qualified candidates: 

  • For some reason the interviewer is in favour of one rather than the other.  However the reason is not explainable in a logical and rationale manner, but rather having an emotional element.   
  • Another example might be when looking into a problem and for some reason you are driven in a particular direction, which might not add up in terms of the analysis and the facts, but yet for some unconscious reason you are drawn to and make the decision based on that direction.


Intuition and Leadership

Harnessing and working with intuition is key to effective leadership.  Simply using our “head” brain all the time does not utilize everything in our tool-box.   It only analyses the facts together with any previous experience, discounting feelings connected with the heart as well as our gut feel.

Understanding emotional issues through the heart, to ensure we tap into our own feelings as well as the feelings of others who are involved or who might become involved, and adding what our intuition is saying, provides a much broader picture and foundation for sound decision making.  In other words what does our gut say or feel about the person, the situation or the conversation in the present moment and therefore what questions have to be asked around the facts to deepen knowledge and understanding before making the final decision? 

As Coget says “Exclusion of any of the three components risks reducing accuracy and speed.”



Coget, Jean Francois, Kellar Eugene The Critical Decision Vortex: Lessons From the Emergency Room https://doi.org/10.1177/1056492609357009

Dorfler, Viktor, Ackermann, Fran Understanding Intuition:  The Case for Two Forms of Intuition. Management Learning 43 (5) 545-564 https://cyberleninka.org/article/n/1049255/viewer

Nygren, Thomas E., White, Rebecca J. 2002  Assessing Individual Differences in Decision Making Styles: Analytical vs. Intuitive https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/154193120204601204


Rachel Shackleton is an entrepreneur who owns and manages Green Key Personal Development and Green Key Health. Working with local and multinational organisations, she is a public speaker and trainer in the spheres of leadership, communication and customer excellence. She ensures sustainable productivity and profitability through healthy self-management and leadership practices, ensuring a focused and successful workforce.





New here? I write about leadership development, communication and customer excellence, including health and well-being at work. You can read similar blogs here:


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