Management requires data, leadership requires something more

tennis playerFor our ancestors, change might mean one of three things: food, sex, or death. So our brains quickly evolved to notice change.

But when so much of the world is changing all at once, those same brains can easily become overwhelmed.

One response might be to shut out some of the information. But then we risk missing something important. Another approach can be to allow blind instinct to take over. But if we want to remain responsible leaders (of ourselves as well as other people) then we need to find a better way. We need 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 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 can lead us into a false sense of security. And they don’t fix the underlying problem, which is the bottleneck of our own capacity to make sense of what is happening.

If we want to be better leaders in a time of change, we need to fix the underlying issue.

We need to expand our own capacity to access and process information.

In fact, our brains are still 30 times more powerful than the best supercomputers. 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 want it to go; when an answer suddenly pops into our head out of nowhere; when you suddenly remember something incredibly important that you thought you had ‘forgotten’, this is not our conscious, thinking mind that is 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 stress, change, and improvisation. What we need is a structured way to access it reliably. This is what we look at here.

Management can be done with data. Leadership calls on us to deliver something more.

How often do you call upon your intuition about a situation? How much time do you spend trying to make sense of data? Might you want to shift the balance?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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