The author of this blog, in an earlier blog post titled “Thought, Expression and Action (TEA) Positive: Triggers and Filters in One’s Mind”, discussed the thought-expression-action linkage in human or organizational behaviour and brought out the importance of staying positive in the three essential aspects by understanding the triggers and filters - Reference: Strategy Musings, March 15, 2015 (http://cbrao2008.blogspot.in/2015/03/thought-expression-and-action-tea.html). The emphasis of the blog post was on reaching and positioning oneself in a positive state in terms of one’s thoughts, expressions and actions. Every head of institution, be it the head of a family, the teacher of a class or the chief of an organization has a responsibility to be TEA Positive and make others TEA Positive.
A feedback on the blog post has been that all humans are conditioned, over time, to think, express and act in a particular manner and that being naturally TEA Positive, as proposed in the said blog post is next to impossible. The feedback also referred to specific personality types (for example, assertive and stressed), leadership styles (for example, task oriented or authoritarian) and competitive growth pressures (for example, earnings and profit growth) that make the TEA Positive a difficult state of equanimity to accomplish. While granting the difficulties, the author would propose that the solution would eventually lie in understanding oneself and what drives one’s competitive behaviour. This blog post proposes yet another supplemental framework for understanding one’s TEA profile, with more particular reference to leadership.
There can be no two opinions that education and experience shape a leader. There are, however, no set principles of the levels that are required of each in the leadership journey. While education and experience are not tradable, there are instances of college dropouts making it big in the leadership arena. On the other hand, high levels of education make for stature in certain entities like universities and domains such as research. As a guidance, higher education helps individuals gain more from experience. While formal university education ends at one point (early twenties or late twenties) and experience commences thereafter, experience also teaches an individual a lot. Education provides theoretical knowledge and experimental perspectives, and instils logic and rationality in a leader. Experience adapts and reinforces knowledge and overwrites experimental perspectives with experiential learnings. An educated and experienced personality, without doubt, constitutes a twinned leadership essential.
Leadership, however, is not simply following pre-set procedures, although certain aspects of leadership such as safety, quality, ethics and values require evangelical advocacy and unremitting compliance. Leadership is largely made up of aspiration and anticipation as well as shaping a future with inadequate resources and uncertain execution. Leadership is also one of agility and timeliness in choices and decisions, all the time. Textbook knowledge of what it takes for an individual to lead needs to be supplemented by two very fundamental factors that vary from individual to individual – instinct and intuition. Instinct is a natural tendency for people to behave in a particular way using the knowledge and abilities they were borne with rather than thought or training. Intuition is the ability to know something by one’s feelings rather than on facts or evidence. An instinctive or intuitive way of thinking, expressing and acting is one based on one’s instinct or intuition, respectively. As contrasted with education and experience, instinct and intuition tend to be fundamentally personal attributes.
Individuals are governed by multiple instincts, of which the need for survival, security and growth are paramount from a leadership point of view. These are inborn instincts but are conditioned as one develops in life, especially through the early years with the family. This does not mean that the instincts of the parents are automatically imbibed by the children. In many cases, the contrarian instinct gets rooted. A child, who sees his parents fighting for survival may develop an instinct for growth rather than security. Similarly, a child who is witness to unbridled drive of the parents for growth may develop an instinct for security. Siblings in the same family may develop and display different instincts. The instinct for security, for several individuals, is a golden mean of the basic instincts of survival and growth. At a basic level, fear triggers the instinct for survival while greed triggers the instinct for growth.
The human mind constantly weighs the options, instinctively so to say (!), by trading off the perceived (or experienced) result of one instinctive behaviour over the other. An individual who is driven by survival instinct may not fear jumping across a chasm of two metres if that is the only way he or she can survive from another imminent danger. An individual who is passionate for growth may not wager his riches on a new project if extraordinary volatility emerges in the external environment. The instinctive response is often moderated or amplified by the conflict and collaboration of instincts in one’s self. The conditioning influence on the intrinsic instincts of an individual comes through the bars one sets on each of the instincts. As one pursues a leadership journey, the instinct for survival tends to get overshadowed or overridden by the instinct for growth. The challenge between the two instincts probably goes on a roller-coaster until one attains the age and maturity to settle for the golden mean of security.
In contrast to instinct which is a natural human characteristic, intuition is a blessing one receives in a differentiated manner from the Creator. The processes of instinctive behaviour have been rather thoroughly researched in recent years, including through brain mapping using sophisticated imaging techniques. The processes of intuition have so far remained beyond clinical analysis. It is hypothesized also that despite some empirical or scientific basis of disciplines like astrology and numerology, the relatively successful leaders in these domains make successful predictions, powered by their intuition. While all individuals may possess intuition only a few are blessed to have an intuition that helps them see the future. Ordinary individuals may, often, mistake their bias as their intuition. In case of several individuals intuition is weak enough to be overridden by data and logic. In some leaders, however, intuition is powerful enough to override data and logic. When data, logic and intuition are aligned, a winning combination emerges.
Intuition often acts as the overlay once the conditioned instinct comes to the fore. Intuition is willing to be subject to review against data and logic but unlike instinct would refuse to be conditioned by these. Highly intuitive individuals may be persuaded to consider various factors but their intuition would simply refuse to go away. While many may assume that the leaders’ assiduous work towards a challenging goal is driven by their willpower what actually drives such leaders is their intuition that the different future they see is what would actually materialize. Intuition, like instinct, would propel individuals to accelerate or delay their purposeful actions. Intuition needs to be viewed differently from premonition that individuals experience on a selective basis as to some bizarre or surprising event that could take place in their lives. To sum up, individuals are differently blessed by the Creator in terms of their intuitive faculties, and intuition serves its purpose best when it is free of bias, premonition and works independent of data and logic.
The fundamental hypothesis on genuine and authentic leadership is that it is committed to enhancing the value of the organization. This requires that the leadership faculties are put to the most efficient and effective use. Clearly, education and experience teaches many leadership lessons and genuine leaders tend to be in a state of continuous learning. The challenge lies in understanding and leveraging the natural instinctive behaviours and the differential intuitive capabilities. Some of the most valuable companies, Apple included, have been built on positive leadership instincts and intuitive powers of their leaders. Instincts work under pressures of internal and external environmental systems while intuition works under the vacuum of the empty space of the future. When an automobile leader recalls millions of cars, the instinct is one of safeguarding the reputation. When the same automobile leader persists with a hybrid car in an apparently indifferent market, the decision is powered by intuition.
Instinctive faculties come into play each day, and the conditioning and collaborating mechanisms need to be ever present in a leader. Intuitive faculties are called upon to play only when certain critical decisions of a future state are made; it could be selection of a future leader (or leaders) as part of leadership succession (or expansion) or development and commercialization of a new innovative product ahead of anyone else, and sometimes even when unaware of the requisite details of the product or the market. The author, in his long experience, has not only experienced the powers of instinct and intuition but also seen highly educated and experienced leaders becoming more effective or less effective based on how their instincts are leveraged and conditioned and even more importantly by drawing on the power of intuition. For leadership that seeks to create a sustainable future, the four essentials are: (i) education that inculcates a learning approach, (ii) experience that enhances wisdom, (iii) instincts that are contextually collaborative, and most importantly (iv) intuition that inspires a unique feel for a creative niche in an uncertain (or simply unknown) future.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on May 10, 2015