Leadership means making judgement calls

Posted on 21 Nov 2023

By Adele Stowe-Lindner, general manager, ICDA

Staff leaders and board leaders have many important responsibilities, but perhaps none is as important as exercising judgement.

When it comes to navigating sticky questions, everyday dilemmas and the occasional crisis, a leader’s good judgement can mean the difference between sighs of relief and moans of regret, dread or embarassment from those around them.

ICDA general manager Adele Stowe-Lindner

Good judgement as a leader means having a sense of where the community is at, not just what the organisation thinks, or what you think personally. It means knowing people well enough to know when support is needed and when space is warranted. A leader with sound judgement knows when to bring others into decision making and is cognisant of possible unintended consequences. Judgement means knowing when to focus on the horizon and when to bed down close to home. Good judgement helps a leader to choose when to react, when to hold back, and when to ask those around them for advice – which usually means asking someone to hold them back.

Every generation observes that theirs faces the most complex of cultural challenges, and I am no different. I think that not-for-profits today face more complex cultural pressures than not-for-profits 10 years ago, 30 years ago, 50 years. On the plus side, we have more and better technological tools and information to deal with those challenges. On the down side, technology and misinformation are part of the problem.

We are running at speed towards the use of artificial intelligence – as we should, because it’s here and it will help us. At the same time, we should be running towards a public appreciation of the intricacies and subtleties of human judgement, particularly in our leaders.

The Israeli author and intellectual Yuval Noah Harari highlights that ethics demands that humans have oversight of and accountability for the use of AI. Flawed as it is, human judgement is required for every aspect of organisational governance. We should be working collectively to make our judgement the best that it can be.

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