The 3 misconceptions leaders are missing about instincts.

Successful organizations are able to break free from the conception of their own truths. What I mean by this is that they are able – and willing – to look at truth outside of the lens of what they create (or what their belief is). When it comes to instincts, we as leaders too often aren’t willing to look beyond our own perspectives. Instead, we come to our own conclusions – and assume – ideas of what instincts mean and how they play a part of their teams. Because of this, we miss how they are impacting our organizations. 

In this blog post we’re going to acknowledge 3 misconceptions leaders miss when we believe our own truths. They include the following:

Nature and nurture can be separated.

According to W. Tecumseh Fitch, the Professor of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna, one of the biggest misconceptions with instincts is that there is a dichotomy between nature and nurture (Nature as genetic or hormone-based behaviors, and nurture as behaviors defined by environment and experience). The takeaway for leaders is that even if you’d like to, you won’t be able to compartmentalize your employees based on their past or how they’ll learn moving forward. Thus, it’s important that you understand your teams equally from both a nature and a nurture perspective.   

Employees will act with reason, then emotion.

Organizations train their businesspeople to dispense emotions in favor of rational analysis. This however, is virtually impossible as psychology suggests that emotions can never fully be suppressed. So, this begs the question: what emotional instincts does your team have? The takeaway for leaders is not that emotions are bad, or that employees cannot suppress them in certain situations. The takeaway is that humans feel emotion, and understanding that from a leadership perspective holds great authority if you can utilize it appropriately. So remember, the individuals on your team are filled with both reason and emotion, and in many cases, they will act with emotion first.     

Systems define leadership success.

Let me preface with this: some of the greatest organizations in the world also have some of the best – and most advanced – leadership programs. However, within those programs there are flaws. Too often leaders are so focused on their systems that they miss the most important element, the people. Even if your system is “perfect” for your company, that doesn’t mean that it will work perfectly. As we talked about above, employees act with both nature and nurture responses, and they’re also emotional beings. Because of these things, how you hire – and fire – for your system will determine its success. The takeaway is to build your system, and then build your people around it; don’t just assume that the system will create leadership success.

Each of these 3 misconceptions are more common in organizations that most leaders would care to admit. However, when they are addressed from a hiring, firing, leadership development, and management perspective, organizations thrive. 

If you’d like some help clearing up the instinctual misconceptions in your office, let’s connect!


Stephen Tisch