Joanna Swash believes good, reliable leadership is as much about trusting your gut instinct, as it is about following data.
Making good decisions is about balancing the emotional with the rational. It is about predicting the future, understanding the present and having insight you can rely on. It’s also about handling uncertainty. Being able to make a good decision relies on more than simply good data. Good decisions are about being a good leader, and good leaders are transparent. They know themselves inside out and they trust their instincts most of the time. They have an X-Factor and they trust their gut.
The beauty of hindsight is a wonderful thing. We all have moments where our gut is telling us to do one thing, but we fail to act upon it. And why didn’t we listen? Throughout history there have been people who seem to possess this unspoken wisdom, such as Henry Ford or Bill Gates to name just a couple. Trusting your gut, or having a feeling of informed intuition, stems from a deep sense of self-awareness. It’s not something you can purchase in a supermarket, but it’s a quality all good leaders have.
Being a good leader is not about how much you can do, or how fast you can do it. It’s about working well with people, about emotional intelligence and being genuine. And this is at the centre of authentic leadership. However, every authentic leader is different and unique, which means there is no one single defining package that creates a top quality leader.
For me, it is about aligning your head with your heart. It is about looking in the mirror and knowing who you are. It’s about continuous, endless learning from life. It’s about having success, experiencing defeats and acknowledging the good times when they happen. And it’s about sharing these stories, and the lessons learned from them, with others.
It’s about trusting yourself, and not simply trusting the data but also about trusting your instincts, even if that means going against the tide. Our gut absorbs and stores our experiences and learning. It collects everything that we have experienced on our journey to date, both consciously and unconsciously. It processes millions of pieces of information every day and it is a valuable asset.
I am not saying that we completely rely upon our gut for every decision we make, because that would be reckless. Yet it remains a valuable commodity within our leadership toolbox.
And I am also not saying that your gut is never wrong – far from it. But by learning to trust your gut, this provides a vital store of information to assist us in the art of leadership. We still need to listen to our trusted team, so we can build a better picture for ourselves when preparing to make an important decision. But our gut is an effective management skill that constantly requires updating and refreshing.
A good place to start is in reflection. Even catalogue your ‘gut decisions’ by making a note of all the results that were based on these ‘gut decisions’. By doing this you can monitor how well your gut performs in certain situations. Therefore, you will soon recognise moments and situations when your gut needs to be listened to.
Also consider your emotions. Are you stressed? Frustrated? Or concerned about something else? All of these things can mislead your gut. Therefore, it is essential to create a balanced playing field. Clear your head, watch some telly, or go and enjoy some fresh air. Then make that decision when you are calmer, and more rational.
As humans we are constantly listening and processing the experiences of our daily lives. We learn things every day. Good leaders have learned how to accurately use this unconscious data. Remember, gut instinct is important – even vital – but it is not the sole source of valuable information.
As powerful as it is, your gut needs to work in tandem with other key components. These include the economy, the community, your company’s current business status, the sector, along with other members of your valued team. And it requires constant updating.
Harnessing hindsight, while learning to trust your gut, is about having confidence in these accumulated experiences of life. Gather all the facts, listen to what you are being told by trusted sources, and respect your intuition. Examine motives, surround yourself with top quality and reliable people, then pull and release the decision-making trigger. This is your X-Factor which makes all the difference in your role as an excellent leader.