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Do great leaders lead with passion and purpose or with their gut?

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There are many articles about what makes a great leader. These articles discuss motivation, team support, diplomacy, direction, strategy, etc. Still, many don’t talk about a basic element that, when added to these other areas of action, adds so much more to the making of a great leader: how they lead.

Having worked with many different organizations over the years, from startups to Fortune 50 companies and beyond, I have seen many great leaders and many others I might describe as weak, and it’s all based on how consistent they are. As a leader, are they leading with their gut, and if so, is that a good thing?

When I talk about leading with their gut, I’m talking about leading with impulse rather than purpose and passion.

“An impulsive behavior is when you act quickly with no thought to the consequences. There’s nothing on your mind beyond that exact moment.” (Healthline)

I’ve seen it many times throughout my career. Despite the best intentions, an otherwise great leader makes a very visible decision based on impulse, on their gut feeling. I’ll admit to having done it myself, and I suspect others of you may relate. I might even venture to say that we’ve all made impulsive decisions — that last-minute decision to react and go with our gut, even when part of us knows we shouldn’t. Unfortunately, that last-minute, out-of-the-blue decision to make a shift — to react and go with our gut — throws everyone off.

“In reality, we have two different selves… the self we’re most aware of… calm, measured, rational, and capable of making deliberate choices … and our second self [that is] reactive, impulsive, and operates largely outside our conscious control.” (HBR)

Most of the time, despite what some entrepreneurs or corporate CEOs may say, going with our gut is not the way to be a great leader. Our gut doesn’t give us access to a complete set of information because we haven’t taken the time to search for information. Our gut reactions and decisions aren’t deliberate, often leading to confusion and uncertainty among team members, clients, and our communities. Impulsive leaders, merely by being impulsive — by reacting rather than being purposeful and thoughtful in their decisions — undermine their team and customers’ trust and confidence in them.

Of course, throughout every day, we act on impulse. Everyone is impulsive, great leaders included. However, truly great leaders have learned to manage their gut feelings. Great leaders take the time to gather information, consult with others, and weigh the pros and cons before making important decisions. They see the impact a decision will have one way or another, now and in the future. When they feel their “second self” coming out, they “snap their rubber band” to remind them to take a step back.

Over the years, I have always tried to remind myself to sit back, leave my preconceived decision at the door, listen, and only weigh in after everyone has a voice around the table. This was definitely not a skill I had in my younger years but has been one I’ve attempted to continuously build as I’ve grown. I’m far from perfect, and I’d honestly say I’m far from a great leader — though it’s certainly something I aspire to.

I believe leading with impulsivity — with your gut — is a weakness. I believe it shows a lack of respect for your organization, colleagues, employees, and constituents. It undermines your goals and ideals and ultimately drives a wedge between staff loyalty and the organizational mission.

One of my goals this year is to continue working on leading with passion and purpose — to use the rubber band on my wrist to snap me out of my desire to react quickly and on impulse.

Let’s all find a way to lead with purpose and deliberate, thoughtful intent. Let’s grab that rubber band, put it on our wrists, and snap it whenever we head down the “gut feeling” path. Let’s all work on becoming great leaders.

I know I’m going to need to buy more rubber bands. How about you?

#leadership #impulse #greatleader #myexperience #resolution

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