Critical thinking development begins by analyzing and adapting your approach to making decisions and solving problems. Some classic leadership strategies will always be effective, but leaders in every generation also need to lead differently and think differently. It has never been more necessary than now.

Besides deciding what information is actually true, not just a faulty assumption, critical thinking enables leaders to take a wide angle, big-picture lens to view the full and rippling impact of their decisions. Often success is derailed because a leader was unable to see the exponential effects that would ripple with unintended consequences into other areas of the company or relationships. Many current and emerging leaders lack this quality. This competency gap creates chaos and instability.

You can begin to be a better critical thinker by asking questions. This requires humility. I am amazed at how many people think that asking questions demonstrates weakness or incapacity. Wrong. Asking questions insures your strength and capability. You learn, your imagination is ignited, and you discover that the proverb, “The answers are in the questions,” is actually true. Questions are the best way to gain deeper insights and develop more successful solutions. Brilliant thinkers never stop asking questions. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said, “We run this company on questions, not answers.” He knows that if you keep asking questions you can keep finding better answers.

Some people don’t ask questions because they are lazy. They assume they know all the main things they need to know and they do not bother to ask more. It just takes too much time. They cling to their beliefs and remain certain in their assumptions—yet they often end up looking foolish. Other people are afraid that by asking questions they will look weak, ignorant, or unsure.

They like to give the impression that they are decisive, in command, and the source of all wisdom. They fear appearing uncertain or less than.

So here’s your first question to think about: Why DON’T you ask questions as a leader? Are you afraid? Are you in a hurry? Do you lack humility? Are you afraid you might need to change your mind? Whatever your reason, it isn’t good enough. Humbly asking questions and carefully considering the answers is required for critical thinking. And critical thinking is required for success.

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