Journalism Taught Me Critical Thinking – Here Is How I Use It in Leadership
Do you know what’s common between a good leader and a good journalist? Their ability to express critical thinking when necessary.
Little did I know back in the days that in university I’ll be able to build the fundaments of my future leadership career. Before entering my journalism courses, I thought I’ll learn how to write, and how to provide readers with information based on truth, honesty, respect, and widening their horizons.
Of course, I managed to learn all those aspects of journalist writing but there was a particular piece of knowledge I didn’t expect would help me out further in my future entrepreneurial career. I’m referring to critical thinking.
When you hear about a “critical thinker”, what image appears in your mind?
We often refer to thinking as our ability to process information and shape ideas, opinions, points of view, and beliefs in our conscious minds. Essentially, thinking is what enables us to communicate in a way not familiar to any other species on planet Earth. Having a deep and complex thought process gives us the opportunity to create art, write books, express desires verbally, aim at development and growth, etc. We often take thinking for granted since we’re so familiar with it – virtually we’ve never experienced a state of existence that’s deprived of thoughts.
But there are instances in a person’s life where the process of thinking itself is not always enough. Imagine stumbling upon an article that states that scientists have discovered life on planet Pluto. As a thinker, you may be overwhelmed with emotions trying to grasp the fact that we indeed are not alone while trying to imagine what Pluto’s inhabitants may look like. But what’s missing here?
Doubt and skepticism, I might add. See, there is plenty of information on virtually any subject out there. We need a tool that helps us distinguish between what appears to be real and what deserves our frowning faces in wonder. That, essentially, is critical thinking.
A critical thinker is someone who expresses curiosity to further explore and investigate a certain topic because, in the first place, they like to double-check the facts for truthfulness. Of course, we did learn to master the craft of critical thinking in university, since our job as journalists was, essentially, to provide the readers with truthful information that brings value and insight.
To my great surprise, this is a skill I’m still using today in my CEO job when it comes to leadership and people management.
Critical thinking in leadership – a great asset when it comes to communicating with people
The job of the leader often consists of communicating with all sorts of people – other leaders, employees, clients, and CEOs. Can you imagine the load of information on a daily basis?
Some pieces of information may be contradicting, though. Let’s say you, as a leader, need to take care of a discussion between two employees that quickly transformed into a quarrel. Employee A says that Employee B started to behave in a rude manner and even insulted Employee A. You decide to sanction Employee B by asking them to apologize and have a private conversation with them stating that this behavior is contradicting the company’s policies so you have to fire them. Months later you talk to a colleague that happened to be a witness in the above-mentioned situation. They tell you that what happened was the exact opposite of what you’ve been told.
What was your mistake then?
That’s right – not investigating the matter further and not doubting the version you have received on things.
See, critical thinking has a lot to do with the assumption that a situation or a topic needs indeed further information and investigation so that you’ll be able to get to the bottom of things. Otherwise, you risk believing just anything from the start, facing multiple obstacles and misunderstandings along the way. And sometimes what’s done is done.
So how can you improve your critical thinking skills?
- double-check your information – always assume there are plenty of additional details that may help you get a closer look at the big picture
- get to several sources – don’t put all your eggs in one basket
- give the opportunity to each side to express their truth, opinions, and views on the topic in question
- trust your gut – you’ll be surprised to know how helpful intuition may be in such instances
- try to view things objectively – sometimes emotions and feelings can get us tangled
- give yourself some space to think things through before deciding
To wrap things up
It’s safe to say that critical thinking plays a huge part when it comes to successful leadership. Some of the characteristics that describe a leader as a good one include an open mind, truthfulness, objectivity, and principles. If you want to add those to your personal list of interpersonal skills, then I’d suggest you start to investigate the matter of critical thinking further today.