Critical thinking is a skill of all great leaders. The biggest transition people make in their careers is to grow from being an individual contributor to the responsibility of a group of people. And the biggest leap in executive capabilities happens when a leader moves from being driven by personal significance to committing to a mission of serving others.
Individual contribution and performance can improve on a linear basis. Team performance and productivity increases on an exponential basis. The thing that holds people back from becoming effective leaders — their biggest saboteur — is the need to judge. Making a judgment and practicing critical thinking are not one in the same. “Judgment” is often confused for “judging” rather than the productive endeavor of critical thinking.
Judging is egocentric, and rooted in a fear-based drive for self-aggrandizement or preservation. When you are busy managing the perception that others have of you, you judge. Someone who is stuck making judgments rather than thinking critically is someone who thinks he or she is the most important person in any given situation and is subject to getting stuck in myopia. Rather than finding creative solutions that turn lemons into lemonade, those who judge simply place blame on others and then admit defeat.
To preserve and advance the desire of the ego leads people to judge. Judging is an act of close-mindedness and playing small. It is rooted in the primitive, reptilian part of our brains, where we are wired for fight or flight. It is fear-based and motivated by feelings rather than thoughtful analysis. It is purpose is to disguise or manipulate perceptions to appear as truths.
We are all likely to fall into judging at some point. And we are also capable of overcoming our fears and exercising critical thinking. We practice critical thinking when we transcend survival-mode into instead being driven by mission and service.
When we are mission-oriented, we are driven by team purpose. We value others and think selflessly. Critical thinking is empathy based — instead of being a slave to our own emotions, we consider the feelings of others. We stay open-minded and solutions focused. We’re able to more objectively analyze a situation and make a fair evaluation.
The truth needs no defense. Thinking critically opens us up to opportunity and innovation. With critical thinking, the world is your oyster.
In The Meditations, Marcus Aurelius pronounces, “How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”
Seek truth. Love wisdom. And, expend yourself in a worthy cause to advance your grand purpose in life. Think critically to rally your team and achieve your mission.
Image credit: CC by Creative Ignition