The next time you hear the expression “leadership comes from within,” take it literally. Successful leaders routinely tap into their inner voice to motivate themselves, overcome obstacles, and make confident decisions.
Neuroscience backs up the importance of paying attention to that niggling feeling you get in your gut. Different parts of your brain’s circuitry often signal the answer before your rational thought process catches up. And according to Tel Aviv University psychology professor Marius Usher, instinct-based decisions are right up to 90% of the time.
As a leadership skill, it’s not a question of choosing intuition over rationality. Instead, it’s about learning to harness your inner voice to help you face challenging situations. Here are two keys to optimizing your inner voice to become a more resilient leader.
1. Think positively.
Listening to your positive inner voice, rather than letting the negative noise creep in, is crucial. Skewing your inner thoughts to the positive isn’t about repeating empty affirmations. Rather, it’s about consciously incorporating positive phrases into your inner dialogues or framing questions to yourself in a positive way.
I have a good friend who’s the CEO of a company but reports to two ownership groups. She often balances the groups’ demands and finds herself in a tough spot when it comes to making important decisions. It would be easy to let negative thoughts and frustration take over. Instead, she listens to her inner voice, which helps her navigate these challenging relationships to gain support and achieve her business goals.
2. Dig deep, and follow your own advice.
Successful leaders often rely on their intuition when making decisions. In fact, 80% of successful CEOs say they possess an intuitive decision-making style. Learning to dig deep and listen to your inner voice takes practice, just like any other leadership skill. But when the going gets tough, you must make listening your inner voice a priority. Taking action based on what it’s telling you is the best way to ensure you’re doing what’s right for you.
At one point in my career, I was working with someone who didn’t support my strategies or business philosophy. Keying into my inner dialogue was essential. My inner voice was telling me I had a choice. It wasn’t about winning the moment in time; it was about winning my own self-respect over the long run.
By listening and making my inner voice a central part of how I responded, I was able to push back the “maybe they’re right” thoughts and zero in on my successful leadership traits so I could still achieve my goals. Ultimately, being in touch with my inner voice reduced the time, energy and stress associated with the decision.
Whether you call it exercising your intuition, having a sixth sense, or going with your gut, your inner voice has your back. The challenge is clearing out the noisy world and the constant influx of information so you can really hear what it’s telling you. But with dedicated practice, you can refine your ability to tap into your inner voice to add an invaluable element to your leadership tool kit.
Elise Mitchell is the CEO of Mitchell, an award-winning strategic communications firm. She helped build Mitchell into one of the top 10 fastest-growing firms globally and a two-time Agency of the Year winner. Per-order her upcoming book, "Leading Through the Turn" here.
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