Management requires data, leadership requires something more

tennisOur brains have evolved to notice change because change can mean one of three things: food, sex, or danger. But when so much of the world is changing at once, our brains can easily become overwhelmed.

One response might be to shut out some of the information. Another would be to allow blind instinct to take over. But if we want to remain responsible leaders (of ourselves and other people) it makes sense to look for more controlled responses.

A third solution is to find ways to analyse and interpret more data more quickly. Computers can do this for us, but the information they provide is not reality. It is based on the assumptions and interpretations programmed into the computer by other (flawed) human beings. In a time of change those assumptions may no longer hold true. And as this article in the Harvard Business Review points out, the raw data itself can also be flawed.

Computers seem to allow us to understand more information about more things more quickly, but their interpretations can often be flawed and they don’t fix the underlying bottleneck: our own capacity to make sense of what is happening.

Instead of relying on computers, another approach is to expand our ability to access and process information. Our brains are 30 times more powerful than the best supercomputers, and neuroscientists estimate that we are only conscious of about five percent of our cognitive activity, 95 percent is unconscious. So we can achieve this goal by learning to draw upon the power of our unconscious minds.

When a sportsperson leaps and stretches in a split second to put the ball exactly where they wanted it to go, when you suddenly remember something incredibly important that you thought you had forgotten, or when the perfect solution suddenly pops into your head it is not our conscious, thinking minds that are bringing us the answers, it is our intuition. When we stop ‘thinking’ we can achieve great things.

We all have this ability. Often it happens best in the moments of most extreme dynamic change, stress, and improvisation. What we need is a structured way of accessing it reliably.

Management requires data. Leadership requires something more.

Adapted from Inner Leadership.

Photo By anuarsalleh via

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