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Harness Judgment for Impactful Leadership

Have you considered that judgment is a gift, instead of something negative to be pushed away? 

Just imagine what could be available in your life - relationships, opportunities, emotions - if you considered judgment an inner compass that supports you to discern what is beneficial or not, and what does or doesn't align with your core values. Modern life presents enough complexity and uncertainty to make our heads spin, so why do we insist on dismissing an essential capability every human being possesses to make sense, bring certainty, and identify a respectful and simpler way to make choices and decide upon our actions? 

Read on for six easy steps to practice right now that help you harness our natural resource called judgment and harness it for higher impact leadership.

The instinct to judge; it's a common reflex we all possess. We're hardwired to evaluate and assess the people and situations around us. But what if I told you that this very instinct, when embraced and channeled, has the power to make you a remarkable leader? Consider the reported 2024 trend from the Arbinger Institute: Executives are out of touch with their employees. There are significant disparities between what executives perceive as wins and challenges for their organization when compared to the opinions of their employees.

Your ability to judge can serve as a valuable tool in your journey toward more impactful leadership. But first, let's reframe this notion of judgment. Instead of seeing it as a negative trait, let's view it as a gift—an inner compass that helps you discern what is beneficial and what is not, what aligns with your values and what does not.

Now, to harness this instinct and use it to lead, here are a few steps you can take:

  1. Cultivate self-awareness: Before you can effectively lead others, you must first understand yourself. Reflect on your own biases, preconceptions, and tendencies to be judgmental, dismissing others you find disagreeable or difficult. Awareness provides a key that unlocks the door to transformation.
  2. Seek understanding: When you feel that instinctual judgment bubbling up within you, pause for a moment and choose curiosity over criticism. Instead of jumping to conclusions, delve deeper into the situation. Seek to understand the perspectives of others, their motivations, and the context in which they operate.
  3. Practice empathy: Once you begin listening to learn about another, wonder focuses your attention, and you feel appreciation for another’s experience. You experience empathy; a state of understanding and respect. Put yourself in the shoes of those you lead and imagine how they might be experiencing the challenges they face. To foster a sense of connection let empathy stimulate how you respond and act. Connecting changes everything for the better.
  4. Embrace feedback: Feedback is a powerful tool for growth, both personally and as a leader. Invite others to share their thoughts and observations with you. Instead of feeling defensive, embrace their insights by prioritizing connecting so you may use their perspective to refine your leadership approach and strengthen your relationships. Remember, feedback is a precious gift that will propel you forward when you open and receive it fully.
  5. Foster a culture of inclusiveness: Growth and empowerment of your team requires safety to be genuine, what Dr. Tim Clark calls, rewarded vulnerability. Encourage open dialogue, value diverse perspectives, and create an environment where everyone feels invited to express themselves. Embody the change you wish to see by receiving what another shares with an acknowledgment and curiosity that builds connection. Your modeling as a leader encourages others to follow suit.
  6. Lead by example: As a leader, your actions speak louder than words. Be mindful of how you judge others, not just outwardly, but also internally. Challenge your own biases, practice fairness, and treat others with respect and kindness. Every person has a right to dignity and leaders set the tone through respect for and connection with each person’s unique expression. Perhaps you recall a leader who modeled for you a style that helped you to thrive. Sustain your connection with that excellence example and you will inspire those around you to do the same in a sustaining reciprocity.

Remember, leadership is not about tearing others down or asserting your superiority to compete successfully. Instead, effective leaders empower others to rise, cultivating an environment of growth and collaboration that uplifts everyone. By harnessing your instinct to judge and transforming it into wise discernment, you have the potential to become a generative leader—one who invites and generates sustaining performance, even in the face of constant disruption and change.

So, let's embark on this journey together, shall we? Embrace your instinct, harness its power, and lead with empathy and wisdom. The world is waiting for your unique brand of leadership.

Janet M. Harvey, MCC

Experienced with individuals at the Board of Directors, “C” Chair, Executive and Senior Management levels, Janet assists executives in adopting effective habits of perception and behavior to lead and accelerate corporate strategies. Typical engagements address executive development in the following areas: articulate and inspire through clarity of vision, enable respectful challenge, debate and catalyze synergy for strategic business choices, risk/reward critical thinking about investments and shareholder value, plan leader succession and architect sustainable cultural/strategic change.
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