Instinctive leadership requires intuition-based decision-making, simplicity, and courage. Gut leaders are instinctual decision-makers. Drivers, Arbitrators, and Perfectionists allow their environments to define their leadership identities. And by doing so, they may expose themselves to frustration and disappointment.

“The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it.” – Elaine Agather. 

Some of us are born leaders. Some people understand leadership instinctually to some degree and figure out how they can influence others. Such leaders are instinctual leaders. The Map of Leadership Maturity defines instinctual leaders as Gut leaders and divides them into three sub-categories: Drivers, Arbitrators, and Perfectionists.

leadership instinct

Healthy leadership instincts comprise what we call raw talent. 

Traits All Gut Leaders Share

Instinctive leadership relies on gut feelings, intuition, and simplicity.

“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways; it is always in response to something. It always has your best interest at heart.” – Karen Whitaker.

Instinctive leadership isn’t a pure collection of leadership traits. Leaders may have instinctive predilections while being intellectual or emotional leaders. Some leaders rely on their instincts more than their other leadership skills. Such leaders share an unmistakable collection of traits that define them as Gut leaders.

  • Instinctive decisions. Gut leaders feel strongly about what’s right and what’s not. Unlike other leader types, they trust their initial reactions.
  • Quick analysis. Instinctive leaders do not overthink their decisions. Trusting their guts, they act quickly, avoiding analysis paralysis.
  • Confidence and temerity. Trusting your gut entails a certain degree of boldness. Gut leaders stand by their decisions, assuming responsibility in the face of uncertainty.
  • Delegating instinctive leadership. Gut leaders are ready to let others step up and lead based on their intuition. They also value instinct-based feedback from their employees and peers.
  • Advanced emotional intelligence. Instinctive leaders predicate their gut feelings on emotional clues and subtle nonverbal communication. They are masters of reading the emotions of others and figuring out how situations will unfold based on this subconsciously acquired information.
  • Straightforward solutions. Gut leaders appreciate simple, straightforward strategies and solutions. Intuition-based decisions are simple by nature. They replace lengthy analysis and deliberation with emotion-based clues.
  • A unique attitude toward change. Gut leaders are often spontaneous in their decisions. And they’re always ready to seize and act on opportunities as they surface, as long as they align with their intuition.
  • Entrepreneurship. Spontaneity allows Gut leaders to be authentic and walk the unbeaten path, as long as they feel it leads somewhere promising.

From the perspective of leadership coaching, I must point out that successful leadership involves a combination of leadership traits and talents. Through executive coaching, leaders can adopt various facets of different leadership styles, shaping their approach to suit the challenges they face.

The Strengths and Challenges of Gut Leaders

Gut leaders define their leadership identities through their relationship with the surrounding world. Depending on their temperament, they want to dominate it, perfect it, or coexist with it.

Drivers go beyond simply trusting their gut-born decisions. Less mature Drivers may grow to believe that their decisions make them better than everyone else. They see their God-given talent as something that makes them superior.

With their confidence high, mature Drivers can accomplish a lot. A lack of maturity can, however, derail their leadership. Instead of inspiring their employees, immature Drivers see them as stepping stones.

Arbitrators look to coexist with their environment. They are more empathy-inclined than Drivers. Mature Arbitrators understand themselves and others. Immature Arbitrators, on the other hand, create idealized images of people with whom they connect and allow these false premises to hijack their leadership.

Perfectionists understand facts and can distinguish what’s right and wrong for them and their organizations. Their brand of instinctive leadership is fair, logical, and empowering for employees.

Immature Perfectionists bring emotions into the leadership equation. They fall into the trap of chasing absolute, unattainable perfection. As a result, they lose their ability to connect with their more realistic reports and peers. Derailing Perfectionists attempt to constantly improve those around them, failing to accept people for who they are and value their contributions.


Unbridled perfectionism is toxic. 

By defining their leadership through their relationships with their environments, Gut leaders expose themselves to disappointment and frustrations. Try as they might, they can never control their environments.

Leadership coaching can help Gut leaders achieve a level of leadership maturity that allows them to relinquish control and focus on their strengths instead of their weaknesses.

A Detailed Look at Each Gut Leader Type

Leadership maturity plays a significant role in defeating Gut leaders’ derailing tendencies. Here’s how the process plays out for each sub-category.


Drivers may be so goal-focused, action-hungry, and assertive that they may use others as stepping stones. Immature drivers may fall into this trap, disregarding input from others and rendering collaboration impossible.

Executive coaching can help Drivers focus on their decision-making skills and willingness to take charge while listening to feedback and motivating others.

Drivers are good, direct communicators who possess an inspirational sense of purpose. Mature drivers value feedback. Executive coaching can help Drivers improve their active listening skills and cooperation with their peers and employees.

“I remind myself every morning: nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King. 


Unlike Drivers, Arbitrators consider input and make careful decisions. Immature Arbitrators may focus too much on analysis, delaying their decisions. From the perspective of a business coaching professional, being open to feedback and focusing on collaboration denote leadership strength.

Mature Arbitrators create strong teams and collaboration-focused cultures in their organizations. These leaders are good conflict managers. They can bring their followers together in pursuit of common goals.


Arbitrators thrive on cooperation. 

Arbitrators are great at active listening and value consensus.


Immature Perfectionists may develop micromanaging tendencies. They may also have problems delegating the simplest of tasks.

Business coaching can help these leaders overhaul their priorities, defeating their micromanaging tendencies while continuing to focus on excellence. A reasonable commitment to quality results can inspire followers and peers to strive for excellence.

Perfectionist leaders communicate clearly and precisely and seek the best possible results through their interactions.

Optimal leadership requires a mix of cognitive abilities and approaches. This cocktail of abilities enables leaders to adapt to situations and recognize opportunities.

The Map of Leadership Maturity enables leaders to identify their weaknesses. It defines a path for them toward greater maturity. Mature Perfectionists can strive to acquire the traits of mature Activists. By adopting the behaviors of mature Thinkers, Activists can take a step toward greater maturity and leadership effectiveness.

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