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Strategies for Cultivating Good Leadership Judgment


Good judgment is the foundation of successful leadership. It enables leaders to make informed decisions and achieve better outcomes for their organizations. However, there are several common barriers to sound leadership judgment, including cognitive biases, a lack of experience, a lack of self-awareness, and the pressure to make quick decisions.


In this article, I will explore the six core elements of good judgment and some strategies that leaders can use to overcome barriers and cultivate good judgment.


Core Elements of Good Judgement


The ability to combine personal qualities with relevant knowledge and experience to form opinions and make decisions is "the core of exemplary leadership," according to Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis, the authors of Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls.


In a recent article, Sir Andrew Likierman, former Dean of London Business School, shared his insights into what exactly makes someone's judgment good. He interviewed CEOs of large and small companies, senior partners at law and accountancy firms, generals, doctors, scientists, priests, and diplomats to identify the skills and behaviors that collectively create the conditions for fresh insights and enable decision-makers to discern patterns that others miss. The result of his research is the identification of six key elements that collectively constitute good judgment: learning, trust, experience, detachment, options, and delivery.


Firstly, learning is the foundation of good judgment. Continuous learning is crucial for personal and professional growth. Learning through experience, feedback, and reflection helps in making better decisions. Leaders who are committed to learning and take the time to reflect on their experiences are likely to make better decisions than those who don't.


Secondly, trust is an essential element of good judgment. Trust in oneself, team members, and stakeholders is crucial for making tough decisions. Trust enables leaders to take calculated risks, which might lead to better outcomes.


Experience is the third element of good judgment. Experience is a crucial teacher that enables leaders to anticipate outcomes and make informed decisions. Leaders with experience can discern patterns that others might miss, enabling them to make better decisions.


Detachment is the fourth element of good judgment. Detachment means taking a step back and analyzing situations objectively. Leaders who detach themselves from the situation and analyze it from different perspectives can make better decisions.


Options are the fifth element of good judgment. Leaders who consider multiple options before making decisions are likely to make better ones. Leaders who are open to options and ideas from different sources are more likely to consider a broader range of possibilities before making decisions.


Delivery is the final element of good judgment. The ability to communicate and implement decisions effectively is essential for successful leadership. Leaders who can articulate decisions clearly and execute them effectively are more likely to achieve desired outcomes.


Good judgment is the cornerstone of successful leadership. Leaders who cultivate the six key elements outlined above are likely to make better decisions and achieve better outcomes.


Examples of Leaders Who Embody the Six Elements of Good Judgment


Below are some examples of leaders who embody the six elements of good judgment.


One leader who embodies the six elements of good judgment is Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Nadella has demonstrated a commitment to continuous learning and personal growth, which is evident in his book "Hit Refresh." He emphasizes the importance of empathy, curiosity, and continuous learning in decision-making. He also fosters a culture of trust within his team, which enables them to take calculated risks and make tough decisions.


Another leader who exhibits the six elements of good judgment is Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. Barra has extensive experience within the company and has risen through the ranks, giving her a deep understanding of the organization. She is known for taking a step back and analyzing situations objectively, which enables her to make informed decisions. She is also open to considering multiple options before making decisions and is skilled at delivering decisions effectively.


A third example is Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett has a reputation for being a lifelong learner and is known for his commitment to continuous learning. He is also known for his detachment and ability to analyze situations objectively, which has enabled him to make informed investment decisions. He is also skilled at delivering decisions effectively, which has contributed to his success as an investor.


Each of these leaders demonstrate a commitment to the six elements of good judgment, which has contributed to their success as leaders.


Common Barriers to Sound Leadership Judgment


I have observed several barriers to sound leadership judgment.


One common barrier is cognitive biases. Leaders are susceptible to cognitive biases that can distort their judgment and decision-making. For example, confirmation bias can lead leaders to seek out information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts their beliefs. Leaders can overcome cognitive biases by seeking out diverse perspectives and challenging their assumptions.


Another common barrier to sound leadership judgment is a lack of experience. Leaders who lack experience may struggle to anticipate outcomes and make informed decisions. Inexperienced leaders may also struggle to recognize patterns and make connections that more experienced leaders can discern. Leaders can overcome this barrier by seeking out mentors, learning from their experiences, and continuously seeking out opportunities to learn and grow.


A third barrier is a lack of self-awareness. Leaders who lack self-awareness may struggle to recognize their cognitive biases or blind spots, which can lead to poor decision-making. Leaders can overcome this barrier by engaging in regular self-reflection, seeking out feedback from others, and being open to constructive criticism.


A fourth barrier is the pressure to make quick decisions. Leaders are often under pressure to make quick decisions, which can lead to hasty or ill-informed decisions. Leaders can overcome this barrier by taking the time to reflect on their decisions, seeking out diverse perspectives, and considering multiple options before making a decision.


Leaders can overcome these barriers by seeking out diverse perspectives, continuously learning and growing, engaging in regular self-reflection, and considering multiple options before making a decision.


Conclusion


Good judgment is an essential characteristic of effective leadership. Leaders who cultivate good judgment (via the six key elements: learning, trust, experience, detachment, options, and delivery) can make informed decisions and achieve better outcomes for their organizations. However, there are several common barriers to sound leadership judgment, including cognitive biases, a lack of experience, a lack of self-awareness, and the pressure to make quick decisions. By recognizing these barriers and implementing strategies to overcome them, leaders can cultivate good judgment and achieve success in their roles.

 

Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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