Guns and Gear

Leadership 101: Intuition and Service

Mike Piccione Editor, Guns & Gear
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The first two articles in our Leadership 101 series (here and here) briefly address three of the “five mountains” of the whole-man (whole-woman) foundation we must master if we are truly committed to personal leadership development. The first three are the body, the mind (brain), and emotion. These will be examined in greater detail going forward.

Today, let’s look at the fourth mountain: Intuition.


This is an important mountain though often difficult to climb, because far too many leaders either deny the existence of intuition, or they recognize and quash it, believing it to be nothing more than baseless energy and preternatural thought-processes produced by overactive imaginations.

Nothing is further from the truth.

Intuition, which some cavalierly refer to as a “hunch,” is defined as “the power of attaining direct knowledge without evident rational thought and inference.” It is indeed a real sense which pulls data from a variety of sources including past experience, observation, intelligence, instinct, reasoning ability, awareness of surroundings, and faith (faith is part of the spirit, the fifth mountain, which we’ll cover in-depth in a forthcoming piece).

Intuition is not always accurate. But, if developed and managed properly, intuition can give us a greater understanding of the dynamics of a given environment and what to expect going forward in that environment in ways that are more effective than – and go beyond – simply drawing on the cognitive analysis of the brain.


I believe all people are gifted to a degree with intuitive abilities. Some of us, myself included, have been able to tap into extraordinarily rich reservoirs of intuition all of our lives. I don’t say this to boast, but because it is real, and I didn’t always embrace it.

I began to experience intuition as a very young boy, and I was frightened by it because I was often able to accurately envision the outcome of things. I was able to see those outcomes beyond the scope of childhood reasoning, even when adults said those things would not happen. I realized that the adults – who were smarter than I (and they needed those “seeing” capabilities more than I did) – were not seeing what I was in my mind’s eye. Nor were they able to discern the unuttered thoughts of others in the way I was abled. At eight-years-old, this unnerved me. At almost 53, I view it as a blessing.

Still others, perhaps less “gifted” with intuition on the front end, have been able to develop their intuition to a degree which serves them far above their peers as great leaders.


We’ve often heard of the combat commander with an intuitive sense of the battlefield, enabling him to feel what the enemy is about to do, even knowing where the enemy is located geographically when physical reconnaissance is turning up nothing. Napoleon had this remarkable gift of battlefield intuition, though it ultimately failed him because his ego – and the Duke of Wellington’s own intuitive mastery – clouded it at Waterloo.

History’s greatest combat commanders “possess a unique, intuitive sense of the battlefield,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, U.S. Army (Ret.), testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in 2004. “They have the ability to think in time, to sense events they cannot see, to orchestrate disparate actions such that the symphony of war is played out in exquisite harmony.”

The Germans, he said, referred to this gift as “fingerspitzengefuhl” or fingertip sense.


How do we develop our intuition? Through deep introspection, developing an awareness of who we are and where we fit in a given environment, emotional awareness and control (which we discussed in the last lesson), mastery of our specific life discipline, and a new or renewed faith-based spiritual focus.

The introspection, awareness, and emotional control are achieved through conditioning of the body and mind – things like meditation and breathing exercises (like that of yoga practitioners) – and a recognition of the body-mind connection.

Mastery of our specific life discipline is achieved with training and experience.

The new or renewed faith-based spiritual focus (which we’ll examine next time) is simply a strengthening of the spirit and the spirit’s relationship with God. This may rub the non-spiritual leader the wrong way, but if there is one truth I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the individual leader’s foundation will absolutely lack structural integrity without God.

So we’re building a foundation for the leader, but – as we did in the previous lessons – we need a bit of fundamental right-now leadership for the challenges we’re facing right now.


Last time, we discussed the maxim for military leadership – which is applicable to all types of leadership – “the mission, the men, and me.” At the heart of this maxim is that we always put the mission first. Secondly and simultaneously, we take care of the men (or women). Lastly we take care of “me.” We don’t neglect “me,” because that would be irresponsible. But we always put mission-objectives and people first. We serve the objectives and – at the same time – we serve our commanders, our peers, and those under our direct command and control.

Serving is everything when it comes to leadership. It is that life-seed that every leader must have, plant in rich soil, and nurture; not just in word, but in desire and deed.

I know that sounds trite, and some of you may be thinking, “Yeah, service is that old cliché everybody uses to suggest individual selflessness, but it really means nothing.”

In fact, the word “service” has been so overused that people often say “military service,” and think only of time and activity spent in the military without really hearing the word, “service.”

But think about it for a moment; service means “helpful activity, helping others, aiding someone or aiding society.”

It means serving one’s country, a cause, or other people, not ourselves. Service is the soul of leadership. If you don’t put others and causes ahead of yourself – and your own personal interests – you will fail as a leader when your leadership is required in a critical evolution.

But you can’t just serve. The deed is not enough. The desire has to be there. You have to want to serve. You have to feel a sense of reward that the aid (service) you are providing is returning to you as energy even if no one else is aware of your service.

Taking it a step further, you have to have a desire to serve because you love others more than yourself. Fact is, you cannot effectively lead other people if you don’t feel affection and respect for them. You don’t lead by feeling your authority and looking down at others. You literally have to see the people you lead as having greater value than your own.

If you can’t develop this heartfelt sense of service to your fellowman – particularly the men and women who will follow you – you are in the wrong business. But I believe you’re in the right business. That’s why you’re part of this series.

Stay with us. There’s so much more. If you have questions or suggestions, I’m at 

W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor who writes about military/defense issues and has covered conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq and Lebanon. He directs the U.S. Counterterrorism Advisory Team. He is the author of six books, and his articles appear in a variety of publications. Smith’s website is