Successful businesses embrace diversity and inclusion, which ultimately offers a strategic advantage in business. It’s well known that women bring something different to the table in their leadership roles. What is that women bring to the table that makes them powerful adversaries?
Intuition, by nature, is not logical. Intuition is a process that happens subconsciously. The brain attempts to process information using experiences and other clues to make sense of a situation. It’s a form of decision-making whereby you can predict outcomes without fully being rational. It is something that just happens.
Let’s explore the concept of how a woman’s intuition plays a powerful role in effective leadership.
Are Women in Business Really That Different From Men?
When John Gray’s book, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus,” came out in the 90s, we began to understand that men and women really do come from different perspectives. Men want to solve problems, and women want to talk about them, and we find this to be the major difference in communication styles in business. What women bring to the table in business, is a women’s intuition. Women are neurologically well-equipped to lead, as their intuition naturally sets them apart from their male counterparts.
Men in leadership roles tend to make quick decisions with a focus on solving problems. Women, on the other hand, take more time to collaborate and seek out the opinions of others before making decisions. Women have a more empathetic and collaborative approach to leadership.
Is Women’s Intuition a Reality or a Myth
To answer the question if women’s intuition is a myth or reality, we first must look at the differences in a woman’s brain compared with a man’s brain.
Male and Female Brains are Wired Differently
Research scientists have found that women show enhanced activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex and show more blood flow to the brain’s limbic area, commonly referred to as the emotional brain. They also found that the hippocampus or the brain’s memory center was more active in women’s brains.
These same studies showed that men’s brains showed more blood flow to the brain’s visual and coordination centers. These studies suggest that men have more tunnel vision whereas women have a greater peripheral vision, which suggests that women’s brains are naturally wired for leadership roles.
What’s the Difference Between Intellect and Intuition
The intellect relies on the powers of logic, reasoning, and analysis, an important aspect of strategic leadership. It answers the question, “How can I understand what is going on in the world around me, and how should I respond?
Intuition is called many things, a gut feeling, an instant knowing, or even an inner voice talking to you. Intuition relies on your ability to sense the feelings, energy, and emotions in ourselves and in others. It answers the question, “What other information are these feelings giving me?”
Men tend to use their intellect to resolve problems, whereas women will use both intellect and intuition to resolve problems. Many in business tend to disregard intuition as a leadership competency on the basis that intellect is more rigorous and trustworthy. Is that really the case?
There is a logical and well-researched answer to the question, is a woman’s intuition real or a myth. Women as a group are known to read other people’s emotions, feelings, and facial expressions over men. While women are more open with their emotions, men are better at controlling their emotions. This is particularly relevant when it comes to the decision making process.
It is thought that because men traditionally held positions of power and women were left in the background; as a result, they became more attuned socially to no-verbal clues. By being left in the background, they were in a position to observe behavior, therefore, developing their ability to empathize.
A sixth sense doesn’t come from logic; it comes from feelings, your gut, your intuition. For example, when hiring someone for a job, it’s your gut feeling and intuition that kicks in when you first meet them. You instinctively have a feeling about this person and use the rest of the interview to confirm if that feeling was correct. When faced with making a decision about two equally qualified candidates, the person you choose is often the one you have a gut feeling about.
Why Intuition is an Essential Leadership Tool
A woman’s intuition gives them an advantage over men for reading people and making good decisions. Women tend to be more adept at picking up non-verbal clues and more accurate identifying emotions in others. They use their intuition to support their decisions. However, using intuition alone can be fraught with risk if a female leader jumps to a conclusion too quickly without using the logical side of their brain.
Women are known to be more empathetic than men, and it’s this empathetic trait that gives women an edge in building teams. They are far more likely to encourage collaborative power over individual power than men.
Men tend to approach teamwork as a problem-solving activity; however, teamwork also needs to take into account team dynamics. In this regard, women tend to become better leaders using their natural empathy and intuition to read a group. The danger, of course, is that women leaders don’t put excessive concerns within a group over making tough decisions for the good of an organization.
Learning to Trust Your Intuition
Considering the rapid pace of change, relying too much on cognitive reasoning may lead to slow decision-making and paralysis by analysis. There comes a time in the decision-making process where you have to trust your gut. Not all decisions can be based on data alone.
Highly complex issues cannot rely purely on cognitive processes. According to this Forbes article, “research in neuroscience tells us that the amount of storage in working memory is limited.” There comes the point where overthinking is detrimental to a company’s strategic decision-making process. Highly complex environments demand that trusting your gut is what will keep you ahead of the competition.
There’s Power in Using Your Intuition
If you’ve ever had something go wrong in your life, or you made a poor decision, often it’s because you didn’t go with your gut. Then there are other times you make a decision based on your intuition as your gut feeling tells you it was the right thing to do. This happens to people when they meet their life partner; they just know they are the right person for them in an instant. Another example is house hunting. You walk into a home and know it’s the right one for you because it already feels like your home. Other homes might be cheaper with more bells and whistles, but they don’t feel like home.
Women’s intuition is also referred to as having a sixth sense. What happens is that your brain draws on experiences and other cues, giving you that feeling in your gut as to what you should do. This gut feeling reaction happens at an unconscious level and happens very quickly.
Using Intuition in Business
Using intuition in businesses has many uses. There are times when you can become so overwhelmed with facts, figures, and data to the point it becomes a blur, but you need to make a decision. Allowing your intuition to take over allows you to make a decision as the subconscious mind absorbs this information and interjects, confirming the right decision for you.
Intuition also helps you understand complex team dynamics to find common ground that brings people together. Your gut feeling tells you when something is off and when a person is not feeling part of the team. This insight allows you to do something about it before the dynamics derail the team.
Your intuition helps refine your vision and purpose to confirm you are on the right path. It allows you to tap into those emotional feelings inherent in a compelling vision for the future, enabling an organization to move forward cohesively.
Sometimes the answers to problems aren’t always obvious in spite of having all of the facts in front of you. This disconnect can be due to a department needing extra focus to bring them into line with organizational goals. It’s by using your intuition that you begin to uncover where these blockages are.
When crafting a strategic plan and confirming business plans, your intuition can tell you whether or not you are on track in a way facts and figures can’t.
In summary, using your intuition makes you a better leader. It’s by balancing the emotional brain and logical brain concurrently that will get you closer to your ideal vision for the future.
Using your intellect will only get you so far; combining intellect with intuition — or taking a chance to ‘go with your gut’ — is what will make you shine as a female leader. Know that the prefrontal cortex, the CEO part of the brain that governs judgment, planning, and organization, is actually stronger in women than men. Coupled with a women’s intuition, this makes for a fabulous combination in women’s leadership roles.