By taking responsibility for your own leadership critical thinking processes, you are taking action to analyse and adapt your approach to decision-making and problem-solving. You put yourself – and your company – in a much stronger position to lead and succeed in the “new normal” business world.
There is a growing recognition that the old, pre-crisis way of doing business is never coming back. In its place is the “new normal”. While some classic leadership strategies and skills will continue to be effective, leaders in this brave new world will need to lead differently – and think differently.
Critical thinking enables leaders at every level to understand the impact of their decisions on the business as a whole and ensures both alignment with organisational goals and accountability for results.
The “new normal” is a different kind of competitive landscape, buffeted by geopolitics and global instability, rapid technological change, unique financial pressures, a rising tide of data and information to filter through, and the proliferation of new corporate business models.
The mind-set that made leaders successful in the past probably won’t ensure success in the future. In fact, several recent studies and surveys have identified critical thinking as the number one requirement for successful leadership in the 21st century. Yet there is mounting evidence that many current and emerging leaders lack this quality. And it is this competency gap that is shaking up and reshaping leadership as we have come to know it.
What is critical thinking? Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.1
Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions.
Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with analytical skills can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.
Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of colleagues. You need to be able to communicate with others to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.
Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.
To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.
Problem solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.