LEADERSHIP INTUITION

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Leaders Evaluate Everything with a Leadership Bias
(Exodus 18:1–24)

LEADERSHIP INTUITION often separates the greatest leaders from the merely good ones. Some people are born with great leadership intuition; others have to work hard to develop and hone it. But however it evolves, the result is a combination of natural ability and learned skills. This informed intuition makes crucial issues jump out at the leader, enabling him or her to get a handle on intangible factors, understand them, and work with them to accomplish leadership goals.

Successful leaders see every situation in terms of available resources: money, raw materials, technology, and, most important, people. Intuitive leaders can sense what’s happening among their people and almost instantly know their hopes, fears, and concerns. Leaders also have the ability to step back from what’s happening and see not only where they and their people have gone, but also where they are headed—as if they can smell change in the wind.

Everyone has some kind of intuition, especially in his or her area of natural giftedness. If your gift is mercy, then you can sense when someone needs comfort, and you know how to give it. If service is your gift, you instinctively know when and how to help those in need. And if you are naturally gifted at leadership, then you see everything with a leadership bias.

Moses was a good leader, not a natural one. When he met with Jethro, he hadn’t led Israel for long (the Hebrew nation had just left Egypt). But over those long years in the desert, Moses’ leadership improved—and so did his intuition.

Jethro, on the other hand, appears to be a natural. How do we know that? Because he looked at a situation unlike anything he had ever seen—leading more than a million disgruntled, displaced ex-slaves—and knew exactly how to handle it. That’s intuition in action. Who he was determined what he saw. Jethro, the leader, saw everything with a leadership bias.

Of all the laws of leadership, the Law of Intuition is the most difficult to teach. Reading provides the best analogy for understanding intuition. Intuitive leaders “read” their people.

Jethro, the Reading Leader

Let’s consider how Jethro handled Moses’ situation. Like all intuitive leaders, Jethro read:

1. Situations
An intuitive leader can quickly size up a situation. Jethro watched Moses in action for a day and immediately reacted. Jethro didn’t have to hire a consultant, form a committee, or do extensive research. He instantly saw a leadership problem. All leaders may not settle on a solution as quickly as Jethro did, but when they rely on their intuition, they rapidly sense that a situation needs their attention.

2. Trends
An intuitive leader sees what’s happening in the present and understands where an organization is headed. Jethro could see Moses heading for trouble. He told his son-in-law, “Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself ” (Ex. 18:18). Maybe Moses settled disputes effectively; maybe not. But even if he were able to get by with doing everything, he could never sustain it. As the population grew, his situation would worsen. Jethro knew that disaster lay ahead if Moses didn’t change.

3. Resources
Intuitive leaders know how to resource their vision. They don’t take anything for granted, and they maximize whatever is at hand to achieve their goals. Jethro identified Israel’s greatest assets: Moses’ heart, God’s favor, and the people. He directed Moses to seek God’s counsel, to teach the people God’s laws, and to empower the people to share the burden. Jethro’s plan utilized everything of value the people possessed.

4. People
Skill with people is perhaps the greatest ability of an intuitive leader. Some can understand what it takes to lead; others can actually do it. Jethro understood people and leadership well enough to know how to empower Moses’ leadership, even though he had no personal experience with those who had just escaped Egypt. Jethro knew leadership had to be based on ability, not position, and he instinctively understood that the right people were present to lead thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They just had to be put into place.

5. Himself
An intuitive leader reads himself. He understands his strengths, his weaknesses, and his individual calling. Jethro not only read and understood Moses’ leadership problem; he realized he was not the man for the job. So he read and evaluated Moses’ leadership ability and planned accordingly.

Look at any leader with sharp intuition, and you will see an ability to read a leadership situation. When Nehemiah looked at the wall in Jerusalem, he knew what to do. When Joseph understood Pharaoh’s dream, he knew how to prepare for the famine. Intuition, whether natural or developed intentionally, helps a good leader to become a great leader.

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