Making Good Judgments

In the course of history, philosophers, theologians, and others have developed some guidelines to help people make good Judgments in difficult situations. These Judgment assessments are focused by critical points related to values, reflection, and others. Bad Judgments often occur quickly and are
reactive, whereas good Judgments may take some time and need to percolate a bit before they are ready. Being proactive, reflective, and considered in making Judgments may be a lengthy process, but the results always pay off.

Judgment skills grow and improve with age and experience. As you gain more experience, your standards, intuition, and sense of clarity will increase. Each of the guidelines below serve to sharpen these natural instincts and make sure they have a solid moral and ethical basis.



Do no harm. This may sound simple, but it is surprising how many poor Judgments can be averted when this is considered. In fact, this is part of the ethical guidelines from the American Medical Association.

What do your values say about the Judgment you are considering? Consciously and deliberately ask yourself this question. In addition, consider whether the long term ramifications of a difficult Judgment line up with your personal values.

Is the action you are about to take truly just and fair? Will the Judgment being considered be fair? Will the Judgment being considered be just? Answers to these questions help leaders make difficult Judgments while taking into account the issues of fairness and justice.

What does making this Judgment and taking this action say about you and your character? Ensure that the Judgment you are about to make is in alignment with who you are as a leader. Sometimes strong emotions about an issue can foster a quick and reactive Judgment instead of a thoughtful Judgment that is consistent with who we are.


Consider the consequences of a Judgment before making it: Leaders should project what is likely to occur, what might occur, and what each scenario means for all involved. For this question especially, it is helpful to talk to people you trust, as they will often expand the scope of that future projection further, thus allowing you to make a better Judgment.

If someone were taking this action or making this Judgment regarding you or affecting you, would it be right? This question forces a leader to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. This perspective can help leaders have more empathy about the situation, context, and any potential ramifications.

Are you uncomfortable or uneasy about the Judgment? Being in touch with your feelings does not weaken a leader, but rather strengthens a leader. If you are uncomfortable with, or somehow uneasy about, the Judgment, then that should be a big “Red Flag” that something is amiss. Ask yourself why you feel this way and if you are still not comfortable or are uneasy, talk about it with people you trust.

Finally ask yourself is this Judgment considered universally upright, ethical, and virtuous? This question forces the leader to analyze the moral impact of their decision without sugar-coating. If the leader is trying to lie to themselves or others about the justification for their decision, this question requires them to face their justifications head-on.


Decide in the best of others: Leaders need to serve others, and this means making Judgments in the
best interests of others. This guideline comes from that deep belief. It is rare to see this guideline subverted, but when it does occur, it is almost always from the mistake of thinking “the end justifies the means.”

What would the best people you know say about the Judgment you are about to make? Making a difficult Judgment with a multitude of issues to consider can be daunting. By asking yourself what the people you trust would say about the decision you are about to make, you can gain additional valuable perspective.