How Judgment Can Make (or Break) a Leader

Posted by Ann Deaton Share Your Voice


A few years ago, Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis wrote a book about judgment, referring to judgment as "the essence of effective leadership." Following this publication, and in the context of the last presidential election in the United States, there was much discussion on whether judgment was more important than experience or if it was the other way around. Today we are immersed in yet another US presidential campaign and a worldwide economic crisis, and judgment is front and center again in our conversation. 

Why do we have such a strong need to judge? I believe it's because it's comfortable; it lets our brain rest. Coming to closure is often easier than staying open to possibility. It's just less taxing for us to know than to wonder. But is it more powerful?

There's no doubt that solid, reflective decision making is critical to effective leadership, and that good judgment is a good thing. However, I've been noticing recently a different aspect of judgment, and it's not nearly so positive. Sometimes we judge a situation or a person, and our judgment leaves no room for continued curiosity or learning. And that's poor judgment.

Sometimes it is more effective for a leader to ask questions, to consider possibilities, to notice what's worth building on, to stay open to what might be created with additional effort. What would it mean if, instead of judging others and finding them lacking, you noticed each person's gifts and invited them to share those gifts? How might not coming to judgment help you to develop your people? How might it help you develop your possibilities?


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Small Ann Deaton I am a leadership coach, and Managing Partner in Bounce. I love to coach and facilitate with individuals and systems experiencing significant change and growth. The clients I work with, regardless of their age or position, are talented and creative individuals willing to look with fresh eyes at their challenges and opportunities, and to take action based on their discoveries. As a result, they find that they are capable of accomplishing far greater things than they ever imagined. What do you want to accomplish today? Who do you want to be?


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