3 Strategies for Developing Judgment


What are the essential qualities of effective leaders? If you pose that question to a group of ten people and challenge them to decide on a Top 5 list, they will be debating for a very long time. I’ve tried to make such a list on my own. (I’ve probably published something like that in one of these articles at some point.) Each time I return to the list weeks or months later, I find my own opinion shifting, taking items off the list and adding others. Somewhere high on most people’s lists is the ability to make good judgments of others and situations. A leader without good judgment does not have the ability make effective decisions and move the organization forward.

What is judgment? I define it this way:
Judgment is the ability to discern right from wrong resulting in just decisions made at the right time and supporting a worthwhile objective.

Let me break that out.

  • The ability to discern right from wrong—A leader with good judgment has the ability to look at people and situations and understand right from wrong, good from evil, the moral and immoral, what is ethical and unethical.
  • Resulting in just decisions—That discernment of right from wrong enables the effective leader to then make decisions that are morally right. Discernment of right and wrong without a just decision is abdication of responsibility. Effective leaders act, but …
  • At the right time—Good judgment also includes knowing when to act and when to wait. Effective leaders know that often the best course of action is to wait it out a little, or sometimes a lot, longer. At the right time, though, a just decision is made.
  • Supporting a worthwhile objective—Judgment, in the hands of an effective leader, has a purpose. It furthers an objective, mission, or purpose. Judgment without purpose is just good thinking. It’s a little empty.

Judgment is the ability to discern right from wrong resulting in just decisions made at the right time and supporting a worthwhile objective.

Are leaders wired with good judgment, or is it developed? That’s one of those almost-impossible-to-answer questions, but my gut says that good judgment is developed more than it is pre-wired. Of all the people I’ve known with good judgment, and I’m blessed to know many, I can’t think of one that doesn’t attribute their good judgment to experiences and strategies similar to those in the following list.

3 Strategies for Developing Judgment

  1. Read the writings of others with good judgment. The best source for this is God’s Word. Scripture is replete with stories and proverbs that will help you develop good judgment. The most important quality of this book is that it comes from the ultimate source of Truth. Besides scripture, there are many wise writers throughout history to explore. Whatever readings you explore, do so with others to ensure you are unpacking the depths of the wisdom.
  2. Spend time with others who have good judgment. Share relationship and work scenarios with others and talk out how to address them. Share ideas, pushing each other to verify the choices against other sources of good judgment.
  3. Reflect on your judgment successes and failures. Exploring what has worked well, or not, and why is one of the fastest ways to increase the quality of your judgment. This will enable you to exercise better judgment in real situations that are right around the corner. However, reflecting on these experiences alone requires an exceptionally high level of self-awareness and self-objectivity. This is best done with others, such as a mentor, coach, or accountability partner.

Do you notice a theme in the list? Yes, I’m challenging you to engage others to develop good judgment. (However, be sure to exercise good judgment in making that choice!) We were created as social beings. We grow best when growing with others. We learn best when learning with others. Apply this essential truth of development in growing your good judgment.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

Photo by Jacob Sciacchitano. Photo available at Unsplash under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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