03 January

How to Develop Leadership Intuition

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership with a photo of John C. Maxwell

From The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, 25th Anniversary Edition by John C. Maxwell 

If you’re thinking to yourself, I just don’t see things intuitively, don’t despair. The good news is that you can improve your leadership intuition, even if you were not born with great leadership gifting.  

Leadership intuition is informed intuition. The less natural leadership talent you have, the more you will need to make up for it by developing skills and gaining experience. They can help you to develop thinking patterns, and thinking patterns can be learned. 

1. What do I feel? 

To lean into my intuition, I always start by examining what I feel. When I say that, I don’t mean whether I’m happy or sad or angry. I’m talking about my gut. What are my instincts? What belief do I possess that perhaps I can’t explain using facts? Often I can sense opportunity, but I can’t easily put my finger on what it is. This is where I always start, and you should too. Pay attention to your instincts. 

2. What do I know? 

While I listen to my instincts, I don’t rely on them entirely. I test them using what I know. I try to bring as many pieces of information into play as I can. If I need to connect with someone who possesses knowledge I lack, I’ll do that. I’ll also rely on my past experience. If you have a great track record, this can really help you. If you don’t, you would be wise to rely on this less. 

3. What do I think? 

Here is where I start putting things together. Where do my thinking and knowledge line up? Where do they contradict one another? If they’re at odds, why? Sometimes this thinking phase is fast, either affirming or countering my instincts. But often I’ll spend days or weeks reflecting before I come to a conclusion. 

I need to pause here and give you some guidance about responding to these first three questions before moving on to the final question. I often teach that people are intuitive in the areas of their natural gifting. 

Because I possess leadership gifting, I lean very heavily into how I feel. How much credence do I give it? Around 80 percent. I follow my leadership instincts as far as I can because I’ve learned that I can trust them. I temper them with what I know and what I think. If you lack strong leadership gifting—and there’s no shame in lacking it, only in pretending you have it—then rely only 20 percent on how you feel, and put 80 percent of your trust in what you know and think. 

4. What should I do? 

The final question is about action. The first three questions have little value without an answer to this fourth question. Once I’ve examined my feelings, knowledge, and thinking, I make a decision, create a plan of action, and follow through. That’s what leaders are supposed to do. 

Learn more about The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, 25th Anniversary Edition here.