How many times have you heard someone comment on a move that worked out, “Hey that guy has tremendous instincts.” The observation comes from watching a leader make a tough decision and having that decision pay off. The coach calls the right play. The Commander deploys the right forces and tactics. The executive changes structures and systems of a company. We as observers see this and conclude that they have sharp, almost supernatural, instincts.
Is this true? In Albert Mohler’s book on Leadership, Conviction to Lead, he makes the point that it is not so much instinct that you are seeing but thinking in action.
Like everyone else, leaders operate out of capacities such as instinct, intuition, and habit. But what sets the leader apart is the commitment to bring these very things under the control of active intellect and right patterns of thinking. When an organization is run well, the average person, and perhaps even the average follower within the organization, might assume that the leader has some secret and almost magical sense of direction and purpose—an instinct or inner voice that seems always to guide with accuracy. In truth, this inner voice is the achievement of devoted thinking, not a gift that simply falls into the leader’s lap.
The observer watches in the moment or from afar. He exegetes the decision and can only conclude that it is instinct. Mohler’s point is that you are here seeing the blessed product of intentional, careful, disciplined thinking. As he says what seems to be instinct is simply the achievement of devoted thinking.
This should be a breath of fresh air to young and old leaders alike who feel that they don’t have such instincts. Instead bemoaning their giftedness they should get to work thinking about their organization so they can make good, well-reasoned decisions during crunch time.