Picture of brain, belly, and heart
Picture of brain, belly, and heart

Developing and Balancing our Centers of Intelligence

Intelligence can broadly be described as the ability to first gather information, to then retain it as knowledge, and finally to use this information to adapt as needed.  As we develop as leaders, we benefit when we assess and observe three of our very distinct and equally powerful centers of intelligence or wisdom. These centers are found in the head/brain, the belly/gut, and the chest/heart. For a variety of reasons related to our personality preferences, early development, role models, and our work environment, leaders tend to use one or more of these centers more readily than the other(s). In essence, we are out of balance.

Developing and balancing our centers of intelligence often means heightening our self-awareness around which center we might over-rely on and which center we want to listen to more. These descriptors and questions can guide leadership decision making.

Head/Brain Center

The head/brain center of intelligence filters the world through our cognitive and mental faculties. The focus of this center is analysis and a tendency to see experiences through factual concepts. We use this process to gain control over situations that might bring anxiety or pain. In self-observation, we feel our head/brain center at work as we navigate a new or stressful situation by first distancing ourselves from it (look before you leap) and then after careful examination, planning out our response.

For example, a balanced leader I work with has identified blame as their stress response and has put in place some key questions to step back and analyze the situation whenever they notice themselves beginning to blame.

Leaders can access their head/brain center, by asking:  Do I need to step back and analyze this situation rather than acting under stress? How can I ensure my plans are well thought out?


The belly/gut center of intelligence filters the world through physical sensations and gut instincts. The focus of this center is on intuition; there’s no need to think it over or get other opinions – we just know. Intuition arises as a somatic experience in our body that only we experience, and we trust that it will inform us about the level of energy we need, provide counsel about the amount of power to use in pursuit of our needs, and let us know when we need to step back and ground ourselves. In self-observation, we can feel our belly/gut center at work when we feel peaceful or confident about the course we are on or when we begin to see messages in our environment as signs to pay closer attention.

For example, a balanced leader I work with accesses intuition whenever they make an important decision by stepping back and scanning their body to pay deeper attention to where and why feelings of tightness, lightness, anxiousness, or ease arise.

Leaders can access their belly/gut center by asking:  How can I trust my gut in this situation? Do I recognize when intuition can positively inform my decision making?


The chest/heart center of intelligence filters the world through feelings and emotions. The focus of this center is connecting to our various moods and collaborating with others in a meaningful way. We recognize that our feelings are needed to experience connection and purpose. In self-observation, we can feel our chest/heart center at work when we can identify our feelings and the emotional needs they are identifying. Primary emotions are joy, love, surprise, anger, sadness, fear, jealousy, and shame.

For example, a balanced leader I work with challenges themselves to identify their feelings throughout the day and to address where these emotions are impacting their ability to connect with others.

Leaders can access their chest/heart center, by asking:  In this situation, which emotions am I allowing myself to feel and which am I denying or hiding? How do I express my emotions at work in a healthy way?

In summary, reflection within each center of intelligence allows leaders to make balanced and wise decisions.


Psychology, Emotion, and Intuition in Work Relationships (Henry Brown, Neil Dawson Brenda McHugh, 2018)

Integrative Enneagram for Practitioners (Dirk Cloete, 2019)



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