It’s all in your head…and your heart…and your gut

In my later corporate life, I started to notice how the ‘head’ had begun to dominate management and leadership thinking. Since then, I’ve seen that trend continue not just in business life but in society in general.

There’s an increasing ‘scientification’ (is that even a word?) behind many of the decisions taken today; witness the UK government’s constant reference to following the ‘science’ in their response to the pandemic. Decision-making is more often or not founded on the analysis of hard data.

Of course, I’m not here to say that’s a bad thing, the information we now have at our fingertips is a huge asset. But ‘facts alone’ – as Dickens’ austere Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times once prescribed for teaching children – ignore the role in effective leadership and decision-making that the heart and the gut also play.

The head dominates
Each of us has our ‘head intelligence’ which controls our reasoning, analysis and rational thinking. But we also have our ‘heart intelligence’ relating more to our emotional energy such as happiness, hate, love and compassion; and then there’s our ‘gut intelligence’ focusing on our ability to take quick actions, our courage, and governs our fight or flight response. All three working together can combine to deliver more rounded and effective decision-making. The trouble is, too often our ‘head intelligence’ is allowed to dominate.

New angles
I recently worked with a client who was wrestling with a particular leadership issue. My response was to help them actively look at the problem through each different intelligence lens. We literally produced a list of pros and cons by looking at the issue from a head, heart, and gut perspective. It enabled my client to see the problem from new angles and helped them to come to a more rounded decision.

We live in a society where the ‘head’ is increasingly the dominant decision maker. In an uncertain and complex world, we cannot afford to ignore the value that our heart and gut can still bring. Truly effective leaders are those who incorporate all three elements into their decision-making. Even Gradgrind eventually realised the shortcomings of living life by ‘facts alone’.