It is not unusual for high-performing leaders to favor their intuition over a comprehensive analysis when making decisions impacting the future of their organization. The effectiveness of this practice was recently tested in a study of 234 companies (Szanto, 2022). The relationship between the decision-making approaches used by leaders and corporate performance and attitudes towards change was studied. The companies had at least 50 employees and represented six different sectors (manufacturing; construction; trade and car repair; transport and storage; tourism and hospitality; and information and communication).  The senior management team from each company completed four questionnaires which provided data on company performance, attitudes toward change, and decision-making approaches.

The study found no relationship between business performance (market share and profit-to-sales ratio) and rational-analytic decision-making.  The researcher concluded that laggards rely as much on comprehensive analysis and quantification in their decisions as leading companies.

A significant relationship, however, was found between business performance measured by revenue-proportionate profit and intuitive decision-making. Decision-making based on experience and intuition was generally associated with better business results and better operational performance based on cost-effectiveness. Additionally, the evidence indicated that companies that were more prepared for change and had a greater capacity to effectively manage change used intuitive decision-making more so than those who were less responsive to change.

The researcher stressed that intuition and logical analysis are complementary components of effective leadership decision-making, which means leaders most often perform best when they combine both forms in making critical decisions.

What do scholars generally agree are the characteristics of intuitive decisions?  Intuitive decisions are:

  1. Automatic, not intentional, processes
  2. Result in quick judgment
  3. Rely on extensive experience and knowledge
  4. Tempered by emotional intelligence and gut feelings
  5. Based on pattern recognition rather than data points


Szanto, R. (2022). Intuitive decision-making and firm performance. Journal of Decision Systems, 1–10.