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This article is part 2 of a many part series treating the Marine Corps Leadership mnemonic, JJDIDTIEBUCKLE

Judgment is sound decision-making after considering variables at hand. Closely related to the principle of Justice, done wrong it is a credibility burner.

Twisting facts or considering only the facts that support our opinions is a mark of immaturity. When someone has poor judgment, a popular axiom is that they lack the sense that God even gave the lowliest goose. Running about the farmyard or the corporate office or squad headquarters, what comes from their mouth raises eyebrows, causes whispers, and at times dismay.

Judgment can be a tricky thing because it creates competition for our imaginative resources.

We have to understand both things as they are and things as they can or should be. Then the decisions we make must change current circumstances into better circumstances. More just and effective circumstances.

Let me tell you a tale of when I exercised poor judgment. An employee’s house had burned down, but that employee had used up all vacation and personal time. There was no mechanism for simply letting her be off work, so as a young fool held her to the attendance standard, which ultimately would have led to her termination.

I had a great leader and her response I will never forget. “Why would you do that?” she asked. “Do you really think our company is so brittle that we can’t put our arms around someone who has had a major life event? Do you think she burned her house down on purpose? You need to learn to make the heart decision instead of the hard decision.”

Ouch and lesson learned. I learned to supersede less significant factors with greater factors.

A mark of superior judgment in a leader is faith and hope in his or her people, creating greater confidence and desire for excellence.

Great leaders know that, as Goethe put it, “Misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice and wickedness”. Or put more modernly, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by misunderstanding”. We’ve all seen managers jump at the chance to reprimand with partial information. It erodes trust and shows poor judgment.

Soon people cease bringing their problems to you, at which point they’ve taken away your leadership. You then are consigned to being a mere manager driving metrics, but affecting little. In the words of one of my favorite workplace associates, “Ew”.

TAKE AWAY: Careful, well-considered judgment is a hallmark of a great leader. To have it, you have to think hard thoughts and read hard books. There are no bulletized steps to getting this, just hard experience. I recommend Dr. Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate and Dr. Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind for excellent treatments of human nature and developing judgment.

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