There's an excellent biological reason why you should go with your gut instinct

You will have heard of the phrase “gut instinct” or “gut feeling” and can probably recall a point in time in which you applied it, or wish you’d applied it.

But you might not have known we actually have functional neurons in our gut. That’s neurons as in “brains”, and that means our so-called gut instincts might be more than just instincts.

These findings are certainly not new and have been providing much food for thought in the neuroscience circles for the last few years, especially when it comes to those who work in leadership roles. These complex neurons have not only been identified in the gut, but also in the heart, bringing a new focus to the term “leadership”.

So what does this mean for leaders the world over?

Following the gut instinct for some leaders is a difficult thing to do as practicality tends to override these so-called whimsical desires. But when you are backed by neuroscience findings, how can you not afford to listen to the gut or even the heart?

Those who choose not to are at a distinct disadvantage to other leaders who are not afraid to tap into the head, heart and gut in order to make their decisions.

There are many world class leaders who are harnessing all their intuitive elements, as well as their intelligence, and operating to their full potential. These authentic leaders are integrating what they know with what they believe and what they feel.

Backed by scientific findings, true leaders are using all of their three brain elements to bring about change and rise to the top.

The findings over the last 10 years in neuroscience have been absolutely fascinating and it seems hardly a week goes by when more and more is being discovered on this fascinating field.

We can learn a lot from these findings especially when we break it down to have a better understanding of the core functions for each element.

1. Head Brain

When we refer to the “head brain”, we are talking about cognitive perception, thinking and making meaning or sense of it all; elements like reasoning, pattern recognition and narrative.

2. Heart Brain

Our “heart brain” covers our emotions, our values and our connection with others whether through love compassion or even hatred. Think your dreams, aspirations, desires – that kind of thing.

3. Gut Brain

Our “gut brain” identifies with such elements as self-preservation, mobilisation and our core identity; our boundaries, impulses, courage and sense of self.

When we break them down, it just goes to show how much intel we are missing from our business making decisions when we choose to ignore the gut or the heart instincts. The field of study which concentrates on integration of all three ‘brains’ is known as multiple brain integration techniques (mBIT) and it definitely provides an interesting insight to leadership and a positive way forward.

It is important that when leaders make a decision they are actually accessing all three intelligences so that there is enough analysis, emotional energy and attention to risk to provide a balanced analysis.

Our head provides creativity; our heart, compassion; and our gut, courage.

Although compassion for many is a sign of weakness in the leadership arena, it does have an important part to play in authentic leadership positions.

And of course, without the gut and the courage it brings, leaders are not able to fully realise their dreams or goals.

I personally am looking forward to see how “new” leaders approach their position and rely on these gut instincts to take charge. It is an interesting period in the field and those who are in touch with the head, heart and gut will truly pave a successful path and stand out from others in their industry.

Sonia McDonald is the founder and CEO of Leadership HQ. She has had over 20 years experience in human resources, management and organisational development, and combines her background in neuroscience with her passion for inspired leadership and organisational excellence.

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