The Neurobiology of Intuition - Becoming an Agile Leader

3 min read
28 March 2019
The Neurobiology of Intuition - Becoming an Agile Leader

The idea of ‘intuition’ is often overlooked or even deemed taboo in the business world, yet we’ve all experienced intuitive insights and acted on them. We can sharpen these intuitive abilities to rapidly adjust to a world in constant change and turmoil. However, our intuitive skills seem to vanish when we are stressed or very busy. Instead of silencing this subtle inner voice, effective leaders of the future will learn to let it speak up more often.

Intuition is one of the four key pillars of the i4 Neuroleader™ Model. In our book ‘Leadership is Upside Down’ we define intuition as the ability to know something without the involvement of conscious reasoning. Intuition provides us with information, insights and views perceived outside our normal realm of conscious cognition. All humans have this intuitive ability, and we use it often, even if we aren’t aware of it.1

The Future of Work Means You Can’t Be Afraid Of Change

The future of work requires a mindful and agile workforce and leaders who can channel their intuitiveness to help them make better decisions. Even though factual data will always be an integral part of decision making, when it comes to the truly complex problems, nothing can replace a lifetime’s worth of experience that informs our gut feeling, or intuition.

When we face complex issues, we may be unable to decide what to do using only our cognition, which may become overloaded. The somatic marker hypothesis is an idea which can help explain how we make decisions. According to this theory, we experience emotional reactions when we make rational choices, and these reactions serve as “somatic markers”, or guideposts to direct us toward good decisions.2

Somatic markers are comparable to gut feelings, and they can help us make difficult decisions. Intuition is a very highly developed form of reasoning based on years of experience and learning stored not only in our brains but our bodies, as well.

Giving A Voice To Your Gut Feelings

In the film Make Me A Leader, Dr Emeran Mayer speaks about the interactions between the gut and the mind. With thirty years of experience, Dr Mayer has found that guts with more diverse microbe populations tend to be healthier.

Even mild levels of stress can have a significant impact on the metabolism of a precursor of serotonin, which is a mood stabiliser essential for optimal physical, mental and emotional health.3

Just as the canary was used in the coal mine to indicate a problem, there are symptoms we feel when our gut is not healthy.

These include:

  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal distention

Fortunately, you can learn how to make changes that positively impact your gut, intuitive abilities, agility, and your overall health and wellbeing.


“Microbial changes in different emotional states result in molecules released by the gut, which sends these signals back to the brain. Emotion is reflected in an altered state of the brain-gut microbiome system.”

Dr Emeran Mayer
Gastroenterologist and Neuroscientist


Using The i4 Neuroleader™ Model As A Guide For Better Brain And Gut Health

In an era where agility is a must for business, it’s time to start exploring how to use our own intuition. Perhaps our bodies are trying to tell us to pay attention when we experience butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, excitement, or knots of tension. Often overlooked, these sensations are likely to be a manifestation of the network of neurons lining our guts. Called the enteric nervous system, this network is so extensive many scientists call it our second brain.

As artificial intelligence continues to advance, it will increasingly become part of daily life. Agile leaders are ready to utilise AI as another tool to further a healthy, happy lifestyle with a balance between work and personal life. While AI will undoubtedly become “smarter”, there is little likelihood of such systems learning and then duplicating human intuitiveness.

Our understanding of the connections between the gut and brain will surely grow in the years to come. Leadership now has a new and fascinating perspective of how important gut intelligence is to develop intuitive leaders for an agile world. You have a choice when it comes to listening to your gut instinct--you can either ignore it, or you can ensure this voice is as healthy and informative as possible.

The i4 Neuroleader™ Model can show you how to improve your gut health, increasing your intuitive skills. An intuitive leader is someone who can think on their feet, make quick decisions, and be confident about their choices.

Read Related Article:
Afraid Of Change? How To Maintain An Agile and Mindful Workforce


  1. Damiano S, Cubeiro JC, de Haas T. Leadership is Upside Down: The i4 Neuroleader Revolution. About my Brain Institute. 2014.
  2. Carter C, Tranel D. The Somatic Marker Hypothesis. Primer on the Autonomic Nervous System (Third Edition). Elsevier. 2012.
  3. Damiano, S. Wellbeing Strategies for Optimal Brain & Body Performance. About my Brain Institute. 2018;1. [eBook].

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