The Difference Between Intuitive & Informed Decisions

The one thing that leaders do that makes them different from any other person, is they DECIDE. They also decide WHEN they are going to decide. They not only determine the direction their organization is going to move, they also manage the clock of when they make those decisions and choices.

So, how do I make very difficult choices?

The Battle of Gettysburg successfully illustrates this concept with two leaders who made monumental decisions on the evening of July 2, 1863.

It’s the second day of the battle and it’s been largely a draw. The Confederates have been tactically successful but have not scored a strategic victory at that point. Confederate Army Commander Robert E. Lee is frustrated because he thinks his subordinate leaders have not coordinated their actions well. That night as he decides what the Army of Northern Virginia is going to do, he meets with a few staff officers, but ultimately makes the choice independently.

As a leader making decisions, there’s a lot of information that you draw from. This is a challenge for Lee, who is forced to make a decision without the significant knowledge and insight of his calvary, who have yet to arrive in Gettysburg.

Across the battlefield, Union Army Commander George Meade is making his own decision. Meade met with his core commanders and gained critical information: the status of troops, their morale, ammunition, food, water, how many wounded, etc. 

Meade, with only 3–4 days of command experience opposes Lee and his 1.5 years of command experience. Although Meade has the disadvantage of being a new commander, he has an even larger advantage-- information. The Union Army had developed an analytical group, headed by Col. Sharpe, which took disparate pieces of information, organized them, and provided analysis and intelligence to Meade. After consulting with his leaders, Meade ultimately mades the decision to defend. Lee is at a disadvantage, lacking necessary information from his calvary and analytical data, and makes the decision to attack, which is known as Pickett’s Charge.

What we see is two leaders, making very difficult decisions, in a crisis, with a constrained period of time. Lee, the more experience leaders made intuitive choices- based on intuition and and his sense of the situation. Meade, the less experienced leader, made informed choices- based on information, feedback, and Sharpe’s analysis.

All leaders have to think regardless of what they are leading…

  • How do I gather information? 

  • How is that information analyzed? 

  • How can I best in constrained periods of time make very informed decisions?

We want to hear from YOU!

Tell us about when you’ve had to make a difficult decision as a leader on your intuition?