You’re sitting in a team or leadership meeting where an important decision needs to be made but something just doesn’t feel right. The arguments presented appear sound and well-researched but still something feels off. It’s a hunch, a sense that you have, a gut feeling! Do you make it known to the other team members? And say what? “My gut tells me this isn’t the right decision but I can’t tell you why”. People might stare at you in disbelief, wondering about your mental well-being.

This has happened to all of us at some point in our lives. Sometimes we listen to our gut and at other times we don’t, but in hindsight we frequently wish we had. We’ve all heard of successful business owners and entrepreneurs who follow their gut feeling even when the logical, factual information says something else. Richard Branson is one of these people – he mostly makes gut decisions and his business success speaks for itself.

The gut is often referred to as our second brain; rational thinking occurs in the brain but insights arise from our gut. These two “brains” are connected through the spinal cord. Starting at our prefrontal cortex (just behind the forehead) down the brain stem at the back of our neck to our spine and our central neural system. Life experiences are stored in different areas of our body; it’s all neatly compartmentalised.

The nervous system is the high-speed fibre optic highway that connects these stored experiences in a flash and gives us this somatic gut feeling. It must be noted that as we age our intuitive sensory muscles become stronger. This is because with age we experience many rich life experiences, situations and events that make our brain gut repository so much deeper. Traditionally we used to label it “wisdom”.

Good leaders take their gut feelings seriously

The challenge comes when we don’t take our gut feeling seriously and ignore it as being some odd feeling or strange mood we’re in. Life can get loud and busy with so much going on, that the gut is often not heard. However, we should become more attuned to our gut because it picks up many subconscious clues that our logical brain doesn’t always notice. To tune into the gut, we need to start creating mental introspective pauses so that we can understand the subtle message our inner guiding compasses wishes to share with us. Like the brain, the gut is there to serve us with good intention and keep us protected.

Life is about using the brain and the gut to understand and assess situations based on past experiences and emotions. It isn’t a case of either or, but combined usage to make decisions that are good for our head and heart.

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