Leaders are those people within an organisation that are looked up to, in most cases it is assumed that decisions made by leadership are the right ones because of the experience and knowledge that the leader possesses.
But one trait that I believe is key to differentiate a good leader from a great leader is not the ability to make decisions based on experience and knowledge, but the ability to challenge their own assumptions. As Sir Karl Popper, one of the great philosophers of the 20th century said, “falsify” their claim.
Good leaders are intelligent, their experiences have shaped their decision-making process to make the best strategic choice for their company, their team and their vision. But great leaders are humble enough to recognise that they do not have all of the answers. For this reason, they do not restrict themselves to their own viewpoint and opinion but instead, they actively seek external input to further guide their decision-making process. They are aware that the rules of the past may have been replaced by new ideas by the younger generations and new thoughts: there may have been a paradigm shift. They see criticism from professionals as an opportunity to improve their decisions.
Great leaders have the ability to not just challenge the assumptions of others, but to challenge their very own assumptions. We often talk of humility and leadership in the same breath and do not stop to consider what it may mean. It is this act of questioning one’s own assumptions that differentiates overconfidence from humility. They constantly ask the question, “How do I know that my decision is the best decision?” and they understand that their worldview is based on a different perspective to others and thus is never complete.
Of course, being a leader means making executive and final decisions. This is one of the core skills a leader must have, and it is one reason that not everybody can lead an organisation. However, the capability for great leaders to surround themselves with trusted advisors and actively gain the perspective of others, to encourage them to challenge their own rationale and beliefs is what makes them even more effective.
So as a leader, next time you have a major decision to make, trust your judgement, but also hold equal value to the judgement and views of those you trust, those that are willing to challenge you. This could be your immediate team, industry peers, coaches, advisors or family members.
People that care, will not just nod their head in agreement but will challenge your decision, they will ask the question 'why?' which is a powerful question to ask.
The combination of perspectives and the diverse range of knowledge you are able to gain from a trusted circle is a major strategic advantage. But it all begins with the ability to challenge your own perspective.
Written by Cameron Scott and Arun Kohli