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Book review of Judgement: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls

Noel M Tichy and Warren G Bennis

“Judgement is the core, the nucleus, of leadership”(Tichy and Bennis, 2007, p.5).

Judgement: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls argues that leadership is effective judgment.

“Judgement: the essence of effective leadership. It is a contextually informed decision-making process encompassing three domains: people, strategy, and crisis. Within each domain, leadership judgements follow a three-phase process: preparation, the call and execution. Good leadership judgment is supported by contextual knowledge of oneself, social network, organization and stakeholders” (Tichy and Bennis, 2007, p.1).

The core argument is applicable despite the authors’ over-reliance on “big” companies or individual names to make their case. The authors argue that effective judgment comes from developing a teachable point of view. That is the idea that an individual must have a clear narrative for what they are trying to achieve and communicate this to frame their judgements and encourage others to follow them. The teachable point of view must reflect where we are now, where we are going, and how we will get there (Tichy and Bennis, 2007, p.59).

Create a teachable point of view

By creating a teachable point of view, individuals who have taken on leadership have a mental framework to guide their choices and a narrative to explain them through. An effective storyline must be compelling and practical, combining different ideas around a specific topic or event. These storylines evolve, incorporating changes in the current situation (Tichy and Bennis, 2007, p.45). “Developing strategy is a never-ending job of crafting the storyline for success” (Tichy and Bennis, 2007, p.146). Moreover, the authors argue that a teachable point of view is a decision-making framework through which you can articulate what is right and what isn’t. This allows the team to “worry about doing what is right, rather than who is right” (Tichy and Bennis, 2007, p.70).

Regarding specific judgement calls, the authors argue that staffing judgements are the most important ones that individuals make. This means understanding your point of view and how your team complements and enhances that perspective. Do you have the right domain expertise, industry knowledge, organizational knowledge, and constituent knowledge on your team (Tichy and Bennis, 2007, p.246)?

The authors provide a useful exercise for developing a teachable point of view. “Imagine your organization will be on the cover of a leading publication. The story will feature the success of your organization and your team over the next two years” (Tichy and Bennis, 2007, p.315). Ask yourself the following:

  1. What did you achieve?

  2. Who did you get past, beat, and how did you do it?

  3. What were the critical cultural changes, and how did they happen?

  4. What role did others play, and why were they energized to perform?

  5. What challenges and resistance did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

  6. How did you know you were successful, and how did it feel to you, your organization, and your customers?


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