Trusting Your Inner Leader


Rick Rubin can’t remember the last time he cut his hair or his beard. He’s usually barefoot. He’s a huge fan of WWE wrestling.

To look at him on the street, you probably wouldn’t guess he’s been named one of Time’s top 100 most influential people in the world or that MTV claims he is the “most influential producer of the last 20 years.” 

Ask Rick what has led to his success (He’s produced music with LL Cool J, Aerosmith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, Green Day, ACDC, Mick Jagger, Metallica, Jay Z), he’ll tell you it’s simple: he trusts his gut. 

Rick knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like, and when he doesn’t know why something strikes a cord with him, he trusts it anyway. 

He has full confidence that his gut is informed and is leading him toward something important and aligned. Even when he can’t see the whole story upfront. 

But he acknowledges it doesn’t always come naturally to trust your instincts. “It’s an extraordinarily difficult process to turn off the voices in one’s head.” he says. 

And boy is it! Especially, when we’re sitting in the leader’s chair and it feels like there are eyes on every move we make.

When it comes to leadership, we’ve been trained to listen to the experts and focus on logical decision making. We’re told to strategize and rationalize and we get really good at it. We make pros & cons lists. We weigh our options. We try hard to remove the emotion from the conversation.

But intuition is just as important. Rick would say it’s even more important, and who could argue his success?

There’s a book I love called Radical Intuition by Kim Chestney. It talks about how leaders can listen to their gut instincts and allow them to guide decision making because intuition isn’t just a vague feeling or a hunch. It’s a sophisticated cognitive process that draws on our past experiences, knowledge and the subconscious mind.

When we tap into this innate ability, we can make quick AND accurate decisions that are aligned with our values and goals. 

Sounds great! Why don’t we see more leaders relying on their intuition in the corporate world?

I’ve got a couple theories. 

1. Accessing our intuition takes time and silence. Just like Rick said, we have a thousand other voices playing in our minds. If we are going to hear our own thoughts, we’ll need to sit for a moment in silence. Silence can feel awkward, especially in the midst of a lengthy agenda and a group of stressed people.

2. Intuition requires us to speak with vulnerability. We’ll have to become attuned to our emotions and the emotions of those around us to feel our gut instincts. Most corporate meeting spaces are not primed for “emotion” talk. So, we stick to what feels safer and more comfortable - logic.

If this all sounds good, but you’re not sure where to start, a simple first step is to establish intentional “silent” moments. 

Remember, we have to lead ourselves well before we can lead others well, so start this as a habit you practice alone before you take it to your team. It may feel awkward at first, even on your own, but pushing pause in a situation and inviting the inner voice to be heard is a powerhouse move as a leader. Eventually, these pauses naturally present themselves as silence becomes more and more comfortable and we recognize our intuition when it arises.  

Your silent moment could look like a focused meditation, a drive in the car with no music or podcast, a quiet walk, a five minute pause in the workday to journal or doodle. Hold a situation in your mind. Don’t try to solve it or figure it out. Let it sit as it is and listen for what your inner leader tells you. Then trust that what it says is true.

Our inner leader is trust-worthy and is begging us to listen. 

 “The more that we can remove any baggage we’re carrying with us, and just be in the moment, use our ears, and pay attention to what’s happening, and just listen to the inner voice that directs us, the better.” - Rick Rubin


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