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October 1, 2008 Vol. 1, Issue 9


The evidence of great leadership manifests itself in great judgment, according to Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis.

Why do some leadership decisions result in successes and others in failures? Ultimately, a large part of the answer is judgment. The good news, according to the authors, is that judgment is a skill that can be developed; they strongly resist the argument that it is simply a matter of gut instincts.

Tichy, a professor at the University of Michigan and Bennis, a professor at the University of Southern California, draw extensively on personal interviews and case histories to illustrate examples of good and bad judgment calls. Their framework for judgment divides decisions into three domains judgment about people, judgment about strategy, and judgment in a time of crisis and examines the phases of decision-making as well as the importance of managing stakeholders during and after the decision-making process. They also identify four types of knowledge that leaders must possess to arrive at good judgments: self-knowledge, social network knowledge, organizational knowledge, and contextual knowledge.

Tichy and Bennis see knowledge creation as a critical element of developing judgment capacity. Organizations in which everyone teaches and everyone learns offer decision-makers the best input for making considered judgments. Citing examples from organizations as different as Best Buy and Intuit, they write:

“The paradox of shifting power to the front lines is that it requires senior leaders to use their authority to overcome the technical, political, and cultural barriers that often stand in the way….When they do, they realize that frontline leaders are those most skilled in making local decisions to simultaneously delight customers and protect the bottom line and continuously create knowledge.”

Read more about Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls.

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