The Best Leaders Are Critical Thinkers

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 6.19.43 AMWhat makes some leaders stand out from the rest?

It has to do with their ability to think decisively.

The best leaders evaluate their options, weigh in on the alternatives, connect the dots, and look for potential in order to make informed decisions.

Here are some of the things great critical thinkers make a habit of:

Leading with questions. Open-ended questions, in particular, help you get to the heart of the matter. Start with Why?, How?, What?, and Where?

Embracing different points of view. As a leader, you need to be able to take advantage of the diversity in your team (and board, if you have one) to help you see things from different perspectives. The best leaders see and make use of the insights that everyone has to offer. They honor different opinions and ideas, because they know those differences lead to better decisions.

Leading with agility. As the old saying goes, the only constant is change—and the variables are always shifting and adjusting. Leading through change requires an open mind that can see opportunity in every situation.

Keeping an open mind. In the complex world of business, a leader with an open mind will find potential by sizing up all the answers, holding on to differences of opinion, and taking in all the variables to see clearly.

The leader who thinks critically and manages ambiguity will be the one who leads where others cannot.

Lead From Within: Be the leader who knows that nothing is as it seems. There is always uncertainty; there is always ambiguity. Be clever enough to size things up, connect the dots, see the potential, and act decisively when no one else can.

[box]Lolly Daskal is the president and founder of Lead From Within a consulting firm specializing in executive coaching and customized leadership programs. Connect with Lolly Daskal [/box]

Additional Reading:

A Wise Leader Does Not Think So Much

Tough-minded Leadership with Tenderhearted Skills

Accountability, If It Is To Be, It’s Up To Me

The Only Decision Making Tool You Will Ever Need


Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness is being released by Portfolio May 2017.

17 Responses to “The Best Leaders Are Critical Thinkers”

  1. Bob Brady

    18. Nov, 2014

    ‘Leading with agility’ stands out for me because as businesses around the world charge towards improved performance and results, the very best leaders will have to show they have what it takes to adjust, adapt and change course as and when necessary.

    Reply to this comment
  2. LaRae Quy

    18. Nov, 2014

    Love this, Lolly!

    I think another way leaders can learn to act more decisively is to practice “being in over their head” by deliberately choosing activities in which there is a greater likelihood to fail. Not always comfortable, but the activity can simply be learning a new skill or taking on a new hobby…by placing themselves in situations where they DON’T always know the answer, they learn more about how to land on their feet when confronted with the unknown….

    Reply to this comment
  3. Panteli Tritchew

    19. Nov, 2014

    Many people, I would say most, are uncomfortable with ambiguity. As you say, an open mind is critical for assessing options. Complex problems have no boundaries, so why should our minds? 😉

    Reply to this comment
  4. Steve Brady

    21. Nov, 2014

    Lolly, I am not a business leader….in fact I am leading no one at present in any professional sense because, at present, I am taking time out to care for myself in relation to a health issue. Your article has been an epiphany to me in terms of “self-leadership”. Like anyone, I am prone to letting multiple demands in the “outer world” and as a result let fragmentation and disorder creep into my “inner world”. So, thank you, for this post. It has helped me, perhaps not as intended when you wrote it, to lead myself through my current circumstances!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Mduduzi

    28. Nov, 2014

    Great stuff. I love it!!!

    Mdu

    Reply to this comment
  6. Ace-Nectar

    22. Dec, 2014

    Critical Thinking to take Decisive actions requires intimate knowledge of your own process.
    The more I read Ms Daskal’s work the more apparent it seems that anyone trying to be a decent human being requires to #Honesty #Integrity #Tenacity to #LeadFromWithin.

    Again, thank you Ms. Daskal for sharing this

    My Best Regards

    God Bless

    Ace-Nectar

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      26. Dec, 2014

      Thanks Ace for sharing your insights.

      It is true as you mentioned. “Critical Thinking to take Decisive actions requires intimate knowledge of your own process.”

      Thanks again for sharing.

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  7. David Fitzpatrick

    03. Jun, 2015

    I am stepping into the world as a coach, launching a blog, etc…. But as a seasoned 27 year business professional and Senior VP of my company, I appreciate and enjoy your work written work and insights. Keep up the great work! Best regards, David

    Reply to this comment

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