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Daily Leadership Thought #123 – It All Comes Down To Judgment

April 19, 2011

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Judgment is a skill that can make or break a life.

We all reach a point where we must make decisions based on imperfect and sometimes even contradictory information.  There is no “perfect” decision.  Whether it is who we hire, when we enter new markets, how much to invest in new products and technologies, when to expand or contract a business relationship, or any other issue, leadership comes down to judgment.  There is always the risk you may make the wrong decision, but you try to mitigate this risk through sound judgment.

Judgment is something built over time. It is based on the sum of both the good and bad decisions you have made up to a given point and what you’ve learned from these situations.  It stems from how you were raised and the personal values and self-awareness you gained through your parents.  It is related to how much attention you paid in school and the quality of education you received as a child and young adult.  It is related to your own personal commitment to on-going learning and professional development.  It is reinforced through your personal and business relationships and the people you listen to and choose to spend the most time with.  It is grounded in your thinking regarding moral, ethical, and spiritual issues.  It comes down to your attitude about life, your critical thinking ability, and your willingness to be open-minded and learn from experience.

It never ceases to amaze me how very smart people can make unbelievably bad decisions.  In fact, exceptionally intelligent people have made some of the biggest blunders we have had to overcome as a society over the past century.

Factors involved in bad decision-making:

  • Resisting the tides of technological change
  • Thinking you are smarter than the market
  • Having the hubris to believe your own personal philosophy or ideology trumps human nature and conventional wisdom
  • Justifying aberrant or immoral behavior for the greater good
  • Ignoring obvious warning signs of impending catastrophe

Whether we like it or not, all decisions have consequences and the best way to mitigate adverse outcomes is to ensure we are building and using sound judgment as individuals, leaders, and communities.  This journey never ends, and we need to hold each other accountable for our actions and for learning from experience.