Good Judgment: a Leader’s View

[July 8, 2019] He surprised me. It was the end of our Basic Combat Training, and we were about to graduate as newly minted Privates in the U.S. Army. All of us had survived the crucible of two hard months of training and were friends. One Private from Cajun country in southern Louisiana asked me a surprising question; Doug, how do you made a good judgment?

I had been selected as one of the informal leaders of our platoon; the person who was allowed to approach a Drill Sergeant and ask a question for the unit. During our training, the Drill Sergeants had pointed out three or four Privates that had the makings of especially good soldiers. They said we had good judgment. Under pressure, they trusted us to make the right decisions.

“Next to good judgment, diamonds and pearls are the rarest things in the world.” – Jean de la Bruyère, French philosopher and moralist

Here are some indicators that tell us who can make a good judgment:

  1. Admits mistakes and learns from them.
  2. Seeks wisdom and advice.
  3. Has patience.
  4. Is consistent in applying logic.
  5. Makes decisions only when necessary.
  6. Doesn’t let emotions control decisions.
  7. Performs under stress.

You will find this informal leadership element in any organization. A title doesn’t mean much without the ability to be a leader. I was a basic Private (E-1); the lowest of the low and not even appointed as “acting” squad leader. But some said I had something they couldn’t identify or put into words. One Drill Sergeant said I had no fear to make a good decision. I was just happy he wasn’t yelling at me.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

27 thoughts on “Good Judgment: a Leader’s View

  1. Jung Hoon Kim

    Sir, thank you. I am pleased by your passion and smartness about leadership.

  2. Sadako Red

    It is certifiably amazing at the number of senior leaders that I’ve met that have little experience in making good judgments.

    1. Joe the Aussie

      My hero, Sadako Red. I wish you would publish another article here in Gen. Satterfield’s blog. All the best to you and your family, SR !

  3. Tony B. Custer

    Did anyone pay attention to the Nike stupidity that occurred the other day when they pulled a line of patriotic shoes? This was a case of extremely bad judgment. They will make money off stupidity but that goes to show you how stupidy sometimes works out.

      1. Forrest Gump

        Nike …… STUPID IS, AS STUPID DOES.

        1. Ed Berkmeister

          We all love your comments Forrest. Thank you. Thank you, again.

  4. Gil Johnson

    Gen. Satterfield, I like #2, “Seek wisdom and advice.” This is one that many of our younger generations seem to avoid. I think you might have mentioned it in one of your previous articles but I want to emphasize the point. Wisdom is there for the taking. At least listen to the folks who are willing to give it. At that point, you can either accept or reject it. But if successful folks are consistently providing the same lesson, you had better listen.

    1. Eric Coda

      Agreed, I’ve made a similar observation about young people today.

    2. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Gil. Your point is well taken. I plan to have an article about this in the next few days. You must have plain good sense or, else, a good case of ESP.

  5. Willie Shrumburger

    One thing I’ve tried to do is to develop the personality traits associated with people who consistently use good judgment when making decisions. Study closely those who are successful and copy what they do and what they think (if you can find it out). Study failures and avoid what they do and what they think.

    1. Harry B. Donner

      Simple advice. Learn from the mistakes of others.

    2. Andrew Dooley

      I’ve found that avoiding stereotypes of all kinds, welcoming feedback and being realistic about your personal strengths and limitations is invaluable to making good judgments. That way others will respect what you do and you will gain experience and confidence.

    3. Dale Paul Fox

      Good comments here. The key is to know your limits and practice being a better person.

  6. Joe Omerrod

    On a daily basis, you may be barraged by mundane and potentially life-changing decisions. Making good decisions applies to multiple aspects of your life, including work, health, education, family and personal relationships.

    1. Wesley Brown

      I agree. Using good judgment requires a healthy mental state, a willingness to think through issues and confidence in yourself.

  7. JT Patterson

    Excellent article on a subject most of us just take for granted. Good judgment is hard to come by and is only there if you have the right experience and intelligence to understand what’ going on.

    1. Doug Smith

      Quotable quote from article, “Turns out mistakes, errors, even failures are not life-ending. As a matter of fact, they are what make up Good Judgment . . . IF you learn from them. “

    2. The Kid 1945

      Another good article from Dave Ramsey.

  8. Army Captain

    Good list. It follows your themes of previous articles and rightly so. Thanks.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      I noticed that too. Repetition is good for us to learn.

    2. Nick Lighthouse

      Same thinking here on my part. Thanks Army Captain.

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