Intuition: A Leader’s Quiet Helper

Civil engineers are not typically wired to make intuitive decisions. We’re taught to make decisions based on empirical data. While the day-to-day brain functions associated with engineering may tend to crowd out our intuitive side, intuition becomes much more important in leadership roles.

We all know what intuition is, but it’s challenging to define it. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, intuition is a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without proof or evidence. It’s a feeling that guides us to act a certain way without fully understanding why. Intuition relies on information and experiences that are gleaned over time. Our subconscious thinking puts the pieces together and points us to an answer, utilizing intuitive vision.

While this concept may be a little nebulous, especially to civil engineers, it comes into play often through project management. We must factor in the emotional impact of decision-making for our clients to ensure we are meeting their needs.

As a leader, many decisions must be made, and that’s true when it comes to project management. For the sake of efficiency, intuition can help. It’s not always possible to wait until you can compile all the analytical information before making a decision. Sometimes you must go with your gut and move on. Intuition can help a leader avoid analysis paralysis.

It is difficult, though, because the decisions you make as a leader are often complex. Here again, intuition is helpful because it utilizes your brain’s creative cognitive functions to make a complete decision. I’ve found that intuition helps me factor in what analytic processes can’t – feelings, how people might react, and consistency with core principles. These things can be difficult to assess objectively, but by tapping into my intuition, I add those additional dimensions to my decision-making ability.

In project management and other leadership roles, we often make decisions about things that will occur or come to fruition in the future. I don’t know about you, but my crystal ball is not 100% accurate. Intuition helps in these gray areas associated with things that will happen in the future.

Intuition flourishes when we have cognitive ease, which includes being in a good mood, liking what we see and hear, and being relaxed in a comfortably familiar situation. Research has shown that intuition produces measurable physiological changes, meaning that your body knows before your mind does through a shift in pulse and perspiration.

As you can see, intuition is very important and a real factor in decision-making. While we all have intuition, the video below shares a few tips for building your intuition to make it even stronger:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning “not at all” and 10 meaning “extremely,” where would your intuitiveness fall?