Helping Leaders Use Critical Thinking Skills in Decision-Making

Posted by Paradigm Learning on May 06, 2014

Helping Leaders Use Critical Thinking

Critical thought should always precede action. Yet, it’s surprising how often business decisions are made without sufficient analysis of the objectives, options and potential consequences of those decisions. Having enough time for critical thought is certainly a factor for leaders in any organization, especially during those times in life when choices need to made quickly. That doesn’t mean that failure has to be the result. I believe that the right kind of preparation and training can help leaders think more critically even when time is an issue.

First, what is critical thinking? In our work, we define the critical thinking process as, “a leader’s ability and personal discipline to use a cogent, rational, reflective and evidence-based approach when analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating information to reach a conclusion or make a decision.”

To put it another way, a leader who displays genuine critical thinking ability keeps an open mind, tests assumptions and challenges beliefs to make stronger decisions.

How can leadership development and preparation help? Here are two initiatives that can assist leaders in building higher-level, decision-making skills:

  1. The development of business acumen —a keen understanding of the “business of the business,” including its key strategic and financial drivers
  2. The development of stronger leadership development —a comprehensive view of the leadership responsibilities demanded by today’s successful organizations and the skills to fulfill those accountabilities.

It’s a one-two combination that generates some powerful results:

  • Leaders who connect business drivers to their daily decisions and actions are more likely to contribute to financial metrics and strategic goals
  • Leaders who think in broad terms, beyond their narrow functional silos, show greater initiative and creativity in reaching their objectives
  • Leaders who embrace the full range of their accountabilities, and use that view to make decisions, inspire others and accelerate workforce alignment across all levels and departments

A recent Paradigm Learning whitepaper concluded that there is, “No room for old-school leadership development in the new normal.” Instead, today’s big-picture thinking is about broadening business acumen and leadership development to help ensure decisions are made more critically by leaders—an approach that aligns organizational goals with their personal responsibilities to the organization.

Let me know what you think.

Topics: Leadership Development, Business Acumen