How Much Does Good Judgment Matter?

Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis are both well known business authors and both are considered experts on the topic of leadership. They also both agree that a leader’s most important role, regardless of the organization, is making good judgments. They define good judgments as well-informed, wise decisions that produce the desired outcomes. They say that when a leader shows consistently good judgment, little else matters.

They also have this in common: they are mistaken. Seriously mistaken. They are mistaken because lots of other stuff matters, lots and lots of other stuff.

Clearly good judgment is vital for all leaders. If we’re talking solely about effective leadership then I may even put it at the top of my most important leadership characteristics list. However, if we’re talking about Authentic Servant Leadership then many other characteristics come into play and they are equally as important as good judgment.

Let me attempt to struggle once again with the difference between effective leadership and truly Authentic Servant Leadership.

Think of it like this: effective leadership can settle for the good of the one over the good of the many. Authentic Servant Leadership will consistently, willingly, sacrifice the good of the one for the good of the many, even when they are personally the “one.”

If that’s an accurate description of the difference, or at least a difference, between “effective” and “authentic” leadership and I believe that it is, that makes effective leadership a whole lot easier than authentic leadership.

There is just a lot less to be concerned about. There are less “inputs” to consider when a merely effective leader is making a judgment.

So if Tichy and Bennis are talking about only effective leadership they could have a point. But merely effective leaders are limited in their ability to earn the commitment of their people. That limitation lessons their influence and prevents them from ever achieving a Level Five Leadership Status.

Authentic Servant Leaders must have integrity and they must care about their people. They celebrate the success of others before their own. They don’t spend time on their people, they invest time with their people. Authentic Servant Leaders don’t just build a strong following, they build strong leaders. Yes, they have outstanding judgment but they know that there are very few things that “matter little” and many things that matter a lot in leadership.

Here’s where I can agree with both Tichy and Bennis: they say when a leader consistently shows poor judgment, nothing else matters. I believe that is mostly true. It’s true because you can care for people, you can have boatloads of integrity, and you can genuinely love it when other people succeed but if your judgment is always lacking, you may be a wonderful person but you won’t be a leader for long.

So judgment matters, it really really matters. To say that little else matters however is to diminish the legacy of many of the greatest leaders who ever lived. Judgment is a critical component of leadership, but it’s not the only one, it’s only one of many.

18 thoughts on “How Much Does Good Judgment Matter?

  1. Nice post Steve. I agree that effective leadership is always easier than Authentic Servant Leadership. What’s best for the many is almost always harder than what’s expedient, or benefits only a few. Authentic Servant Leadership (or what I call character-based leadership) requires us to bring our best self to serve our team, organization or objective. Thanks for the great post and reminder this morning. Mike…

    1. Thanks Mike, you’re absolutely right of course, when we only have to consider ourselves or maybe a few others it’s far easier then finding a solution that works for many. But hey, who ever said authentic leadership was supposed to be easy ☺️

  2. I say the best judgment is derived from a trustworthy team. We’re limited ‘alone’. I speak from experience as a widow for nearly a decade now. I’ve always been ‘intellectually smart’ and that’s not the same as being able to bounce things off my partner when we have big decisions to make. Even if I still ‘had it right’ in the first place, it was comforting to have some backup. For the ‘just in case’ it wasn’t sound judgment.

    In a biz and org, I like the idea of two in charge. To lead as a unit. (like in a marriage) Once covers the blind spots of the other and vice versa. Of course, both would need to have a high level of trust but I’d love to see it.

    Perhaps we need a duet in the presidency as well! (grins)

    And naturally, given my latest loving but firm Twitter rants…I expect BOTH to have at least served in the military before they take on the position of Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces! (yes! this really does bother me any time we get a President who has never served in the military! It is BEYOND me that they are allowed to become CHIEF of the armed forces having never served! How can this BE!?!?) But I digress….

    : )

  3. PS: I mean more EQUAL power in presidency. Rather then just a vice. >> More pointedly, both a male and a female and than perhaps we get the benefits of both masculine and feminine all rolled into one. : )

    1. Geez, it could work IF you had the right man and woman – if you got the wrong pair they could just argue all day and never get anything done. They might call each other names and hire lawyers to sue each other. If it was the wrong two people they might dislike each other so much that they spend all their time blaming the other one for nothing getting done.

      Oh wait….. that’s what we have now… So, Presidents are from Mars and Congress is from Venus?

      1. Re: Presidents are from Mars and Congress is from Venus? EXACTLY! lol That was brilliant Steve.

        Also reminds me of a recent clip I shared from Crimson Tide between Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. Gene plays the old timer Captain of the USS Alabama (submarine) and Denzel is his free thinking new comer XO. Big mutiny situation that saves the world from starting a nuclear holocaust and in the end BOTH were declared to be right AND wrong at the same time.

        Once again…Mars and Venus but between two guys! (grins)

        Granted, yes…if you get two people or groups together to argue simply for the sake of arguing, nothing gets accomplished. (sound like the split between Dems and Reps..a chronic issue!)

        However, if you get the two together who value their individual diversity, respect each others strengths, weaknesses, gifts and talents….then both can devote time to having each others backs, covering for each others blinds spots, and getting REAL things done in the world.

        Instead of attacking one another for strengths the one has but the other doesn’t have etc. (pointless in my book….recognize the strength in one and use the strength in the other to leverage the power of BOTH!) But once again….I digress! : )

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