Judgment: Making Great Calls

What is the fundamental essence of leadership? Is it the ability to make consistently good judgment calls?

Realistically, leaders are remembered for their best and worst judgment calls, especially when the stakes are high, information is limited and the correct call is far from obvious.

In the face of ambiguity, uncertainty and conflicting demands, the quality of a leader’s judgment determines the entire organization’s fate.

That’s why leadership experts Noel M. Tichy and Warren G. Bennis claim judgment is the essence of leadership. In their popular book, Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls (Portfolio, 2007), they write: “With good judgment, little else matters. Without it, nothing else matters.”

Judgment has rarely been discussed in academic or popular publications. Until now, it has been a fairly murky concept. Many assume it’s an inborn trait, but Tichy and Bennis prove it’s a skill that can be developed, refined and nurtured throughout an organization.

Effective leaders not only make better calls, but they’re able to pinpoint the make-or-break decisions and get most of them right.


This is a brief synopsis of a 2000 word article suitable for consultants’ newsletters for executives and leaders in organizations. It is available for purchase with full reprint rights, which means you may put your name on it and use it in your newsletters, blogs or other marketing materials. You may also modify it and add your personal experiences.

There are two versions of this article: 2000 words and 1000 words (approximate word counts). The full article covers the following sub-topics:

Who Gets It Right
Rationality Doesn’t Always Win
A Framework for Leadership Judgment
Three Judgment Domains
The Process of Judgment Calls
Resources and Constituencies
Leaders’ Storylines: Teachable Points of View

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