Do you think critical thinking is important in developing as a leader?

Leadership development is a crucial part of many students’ education throughout their schooling and it is highly applicable to life on campus and after graduation. Some people take to leadership roles more naturally than others, but everyone has the potential to bring something to the table and lead at one point or another. The development of these skills takes some time and energy, but it can be very worth it in the end, when expressing ideas and taking the reins becomes a very good way to get things accomplished.

Developing leadership ability begins with careful study and use of critical thinking skills. Without proficiency in critical thinking, a person is unable to support ideas, opinions, and decisions, and thus is hardly qualified to lead. Using critical thinking to come to conclusions, on the other hand, is a great way for a person to be taken seriously. As a competent member of a group, such a person will be looked to for answers, thoughts, and decisions more frequently, and at some point may become the group’s leader.

Additionally, everyone has opinions, some stronger than others, and those shared by others can pull together a group of like-minded people. However, only those opinions that are based in facts, logic, sound reasoning, and analysis of the situation will be respected by a broader audience. For a budding leader, this respect is of utmost importance and can form the foundation upon which their work as a leader is built. The aspiring leader must use critical thinking consistently in order to define their platform, or their working set of opinions and ideals which they will be presenting to their audience over time. Constructing a platform might not always be a conscious effort, but it can give some indication of the ability of the developing leader to reach sensible conclusions in a variety of situations or on many topics.

Only after a person knows their own platform can they successfully lead. A clear stance and straightforward communication of that stance is necessary for consistency and reliability, which significantly increase the amount of respect a person might receive. The respect shown to a person is related to the level to which they rise as a leader and the extent to which public opinion favors them.

The applications of critical thinking skills to leadership are limitless. Decision-making is one of the most important of these applications because decisions come with consequences. Often, substantial amounts of information must be examined before a wise decision can be made, and determining the significance of pieces of information requires some effort. Critical thinking skills enable a person to sift through all of the information available to them and come to conclusions that draw the sources together in a logical way. During this process, the thinker must determine which sources of information are credible and which are less so. Weaving information together logically can yield several different final conclusions depending on the person working with the information; optimism or pessimism, anxiety, and point of view, among other things, cause each person to weave a unique logical web. The variations in logical webs in turn lead to an assortment of decisions.

Reasonably, a leader’s role is difficult when decisions must be made, whether the decisions revolve around petty issues or extremely important ones. Solid critical thinking skills are essential for a leader to be rational, efficient, reliable, and effective, especially in the eyes of followers.

Being rational is nearly synonymous with being able to think critically. Critical thinking relies on a person contemplating bits of information and ideas and then acting appropriately in response. This process translates to the observable trait of rationality. The more a leader improves this trait in themselves, the stronger they can become. It is very difficult to follow or even take seriously someone who appears to jump to conclusions or seems to ignore pertinent information in formulating their response to some stimulus. On the other hand, when a person takes into account all of the information available to them and analyzes it from multiple angles, their response is generally much more respected. Someone who seems rational has a greater chance of being chosen to lead a group than someone whose responses to outside forces are random or unfounded. Therefore, rationality is imperative in leadership development. There are few times in life that benefit from the guidance of an irrational leader, and few people respect the actions or decisions of an irrational person.

In life, efficiency is important, and though not always necessary, it is certainly beneficial. For a leader, efficiency can mean the difference between success and failure, value and irrelevance. A person’s critical thinking process can be more efficient if they are concerned about but not afraid of undesirable consequences, since fear can halt forward progress. A leader must also be able to determine when the public opinion is important for a decision and when it should be less influential. In decision-making in

general, excessive complication arises when a person cares too much about the opinions of others – attempting to please everyone is a futile effort in most cases, and is extremely wearing on those who aim to accomplish it. Still, it is important to take other’s opinions into account to some extent (depending on the details of the situation at hand) or to accept some advice as helpful and relevant. In the end, if a person can learn to balance the will of others with their own will by thinking critically about both, they can become more efficient in decision-making.

Members of a group must find a person reliable in order to consider that person their leader or to allow a leader to maintain their position. Being reliable entails consistency in decision-making. Even though decisions can sometimes lead to poor results, a leader can still be reliable if their followers believe them to be working in the best interest of everyone in the group. By using critical thinking processes, a leader can look at multiple angles of an issue and determine the best perceived route of action for the group. The particular method or pattern of critical thinking which the leader employs must be trusted by the group in order for the leader to seem reliable to the group members. If the leader’s ability to think critically is doubted, group members will feel that they cannot expect any regular outcome of decisions or maintenance of a group-identified goal. A consistent end goal for the group becomes the starting point of reasoning for decision-making and it must be maintained in all of a leader’s critical thinking processes.

The end goal gives all of a group’s or leader’s actions meaning and purpose, and it holds everyone accountable for the decisions they make. If decisions are in clear opposition to the end goal or somehow seem contrary to best interest of the group, the person who made the decision will not appear reliable. More importantly, they may no longer be viewed as trustworthy.

Effectiveness was discussed earlier in the “Traits of an Effective Leader” essay, which hopefully explains a bit about some traits of leaders that relate to effectiveness. Such traits include strong communication skills and focus. Critical thinking allows a leader or thinker to determine the best methods to communicate and connect with an audience and also helps guide the thinker through complicated situations with a focus on the overarching goal, for example.

Critical thinking is an integral part of leadership and thus is an extremely important lesson in leadership development. Even if a person has no intention of becoming a leader, critical thinking skills will prove

endlessly beneficial in life. Stimuli must always be responded to, questions must always be answered, and decisions must always be made. None of these things is avoidable, but they can be made somewhat more straightforward to deal with when information is handled critically.

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