Making decisions is a leader’s stock-in-trade. Everyone in the business expects a leader to say yes or no, depending on the facts and arguments presented to them. But of course, in many instances, decision making is not as straightforward as simply weighing up the facts. There are times when there may not be enough information or the facts are not compelling enough to be able to reach a clear conclusion one way or the other.

During the 2016 Brexit referendum, many people felt so overwhelmed by the facts presented to them by both the remain and the leave side that they simply voted with their gut feel. Whether the right or wrong decision was reached is not for the subject of this article but it revealed how important other factors can be when it comes to decision making.

Decision making in a VUCA world

For business leaders, there may have been an era when they were able to confidently stick to carefully laid out long-term strategic plans, but as the business world becomes more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (or VUCA), leaders often have to rely on more than just their logic to make decisions.

There are at least three areas of the human body that are valuable sources to helping us make decisions. First, there is the ‘head’; the part of us that is about rational intelligence and looks at all the facts and the evidence to come to a decision. Secondly, there is our gut; where we have our emotion and feelings which we ignore at our peril if we are about to make a big decision or do something important. And thirdly, there is the heart; where we draw on our intuitive and our deepest knowing space.

The power of three

As a leader, it is important to tap into all three when making crucial decisions. Some of the best leaders I have ever worked with would be presented with a plan at an executive meeting and, if feeling unsure of the best way forward, would go and reflect on that proposition overnight or for the weekend, and then come back and say ‘no’, arguing that it simply didn’t feel like the right option. In this instance, they had relied on their intuition and/or their ‘gut feel’ to tip the balance. More often than not the leader would have been proved to have been right.  If one intelligence is in conflict with the others then leaders should take notice. 

Decisions can’t always be made logically and rationally using only the head. The best leaders recognise this and use both their heart and their gut to help them make the right choice.