Brian Cavanagh CONSULTING

Leadership Lessons – The Power of Critical Thinking

How often do you really think? Think critically?

As a CEO you are making decisions all the time. But is your process robust enough to respond to the wide range of issues that you face?

One of the challenges that organisations face is to ensure that there is a critical thinking culture operating within them, that is led and encouraged by the CEO. Critical thinking requires challenging core assumptions, seeking different perspectives and providing time and resource for that to happen. Good leadership encourage and effective decision- making flows from it. Recent evidence from the Harvard Business Review highlighted that the most successful organisations have embedded critical thinking as a decision- making approach.

Yet in some organisations, the pressure to make quick decisions overrides critical thinking. Others assume they are conducting critical thinking but unless they dig deep, move beyond pre-ordained views, and challenge core assumptions, they are selective thinking only. In essence, seeking evidence to support a pre-determined position. Such an approach can led to short term reactive decisions that produce “more of the same” when they organisation my require a more fundamental rethink.

As an adviser for CEOs, one of the significant ways I can support those in a leadership position is by testing their decision-making. We all have our own patterns of thinking and working so it is important to understand how we reach decisions and to consider the impact on business.

It can be uncomfortable for the CEO to be challenged on the robustness and the rigour of their thinking. Yet it is in your interests to both encourage and engage such a culture within you and your staff team. And for this to happen, you need to take the lead and make it easy for others to engage and practise critical thinking.

For this to work CEOs and other decision -makers need to set aside the time to think critically. Critical thinking should not be seen reaction to a crisis, but a key leadership skill that is exercised regularly as part of business growth and development. It is a skill that the best leaders and organisations embed in the DNA of their decision -making processes

As in all processes it requires practice as well as application. I support CEOs to develop their critical thinking skills in facilitated strategy sessions. It provides a safe environment for CEOs to practice their own critical thinking. As someone who is outside the organisation, I can act as the ‘devil’s advocate’, encouraging fresh thinking and greater awareness from the CEO.

The future of your organisation will be determined by the quality of your decisions. Even more reason to to give more time and weight to the value of critical thinking. You and your decisions will be the better for it.

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