“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

So said Einstein then. And despite increasing research on its potency as a form of knowing, the same could be said now.  Intuition is still not widely talked about. Still very few leadership and management courses explicitly explore its role in decision making and creativity. Or in life.

The average person makes some thousands of decisions a day. One source suggests 35,000!.  Many of these decisions are intuitive. For intuitions are pervasive in work and in our personal lives. And are used, skilfully or unskilfully, by us.

In our conversations with leaders, some talk about its magic. Others are comfortable calling it a ‘a hunch’ or ‘gut feel’. Some prefer the term ‘expert decision making’ to acknowledge intuitions are borne from patterns and associations informed by experience and expertise.

With scientific rigour, Dane and Pratt define intuitions as “affectively charged judgments that arise through rapid, nonconscious, and holistic associations”.  You will know them when they come. They rise involuntary. Fast and with feeling.   Even now when we have algorithms, big data and AI, it is this human combo of cognition and feeling that is our superpower.

This affective judgement, in many ways is the only way we can make effective decisions. Given the complex ill-structured relationship based challenges we face on a daily basis. Where we have challenges so complex we cannot logically think our way around them. Here we need to access this deeper form of knowing. This gift Einstein spoke about.  It seems that the more we are still, aware and brave enough, the more we can access, trust and use it to make good and timely decisions.

Drawing on the research I did exploring intuition in coaching, here are some ideas for cultivating intuition. Including somewhat paradoxically, being analytical about it.

Turn up and tune in

Often we are so much ‘in our heads’ and distracted by noise, we miss our intuitions. Managing our inner state to be calm, centred and confident we have a better chance of listening deeply. Of noticing those physical sensations that arise in our body and trusting the messages about what to do.

Try it and test it

Like anything, our intuitive gifts improve with practice. The more we become familiar with them, the more we can trust and appropriately apply them. I like sport metaphors, and ‘getting a feel for your batting average’ as suggested by Sadler-Smith and Shefy (2004) makes sense. Get a feel, through logging/recording how you intuit, in what situations, your level of confidence when you made it, how accurate it was and what was the outcome.

Talk about it

The more we talk about it, particularly as leaders, the more we can make sense of our intuition. To be open to it. And create conditions for it to be the legitimate source of knowing it is.



  • Reference to 35,000 decisions: https://go.roberts.edu/leadingedge/the-great-choices-of-strategic-leaders
  • Dane, E. and Pratt, M. (2007), “Exploring intuition and its role in managerial decision-making”, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. pp33-pp54.
  • Mavor, P., Sadler-Smith, E., Gray, D.E., (2010), Teaching and Learning Intuition: some implications for HRD and coaching practice, Journal of European Industrial Training, (34) 8/9; 822-838 https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/03090591011080995/full/html
  • Sadler-Smith, E. and Shefy, E. (2004), The intuitive executive: understanding and applying ‘gut-feel’ in decision-making, Academy of Management Learning and Education, 18:4: 76-91
  • This article was also gifted to www.impactinternational.com
  • Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash


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Penelope Mavor
12 years ago

if we sit still..the fog will clear (unless you live in Milano! 😉

Cathy Teesdale
12 years ago

That's lovely – & very reassuring to hear. I often feel I'm stumbling through the fog! But then you address the wisdom of unknowing in your next post…

Penelope Mavor
12 years ago

I have a feeling you have always followed your intuition creative Cathy..and your relationship with it has got stronger and deeper (particularly over this year!)..

Cathy Teesdale
12 years ago

Great second post bella & it entirely chimes with my current journey, learning how to fully use & have faith in my own intuition!