Leadership, Personal Development, Strategic planning, Uncategorized

Tips to leaders – Thinking gray and free

What should a leader do when faced with difficult decisions? I think many people would agree that a good leader should appear to be decisive and quick in her decision-making. Nevertheless, I’d like to offer two counter-intuitive suggestions. I believe that excellent leaders should learn to cultivate the skills of thinking Gray and Free when making decisions.

Thinking Gray

In thinking gray a leader should be able to withhold judgment when faced with two or more points of view or alternatives. She should practice what I have referred to in a previous blog as having two (or more) thoughts in her head at the same time (https://edbrownweb.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/two-thoughts-in-your-head-at-the-same-time/ ). A leader should not approach decision-making with skepticism; placing everything in the “not true” box, but rather withhold judgment. Similarly, she shouldn’t immediately play into a binary, yes or no, right or wrong system. Too many people jump quickly to a decision before getting all the facts or flip flop between positions because of hearing one side of the argument and then the other and then back again and so forth. A good leader should be as open to accepting new ideas as true as she is to accepting them as untrue.


Thinking free

An exceptional leader needs to be free from prior constraints, not conforming to custom or habits; both personal and communal. He shouldn’t be overly influenced by the decisions of others or fall prey to groupthink. He ought to entertain outrageous ideas; even those that are clearly stupid, wrong, impractical, ridiculous or even immoral/illegal. Please note: I am not suggesting that a leader should enact or even pursue immoral or illegal ideas, but rather by entertaining such ideas a leader may be able to discover or generate new ideas (that are, of course, moral and legal) that may be innovative, beneficial and valuable; ideas that he would otherwise not have created.

Extraordinary leaders seem to be able to practice both gray thinking and free thinking. What about you J?


This post was inspired by the book, “The Contrarians Guide to Leadership”, by Steven B. Sample.


3 thoughts on “Tips to leaders – Thinking gray and free

  1. Great tips Ed! Being a leader is not easy, but it’s worth it, in my opinion. But is there a way to satisfy, or minimise dissatisfaction among subordinates or team? Not everyone will agree to a leader’s decision and sometimes it may bite you in the butt in the future, so if there’s a way, I’ll surely would like to find out and learn.

    Anyways thanks again for this article!


    1. Hey Abu Bakar. Thanks for the comment :-). Good to see young people thinking about what it means to be good leader.

      To answer your question I’d say one word sums it up – Trust. Leaders that have taken the time to foster large levels of trust within their teams have built up enough goodwill that even when making tough decisions the team respects and accepts the decision. Trust is like money in a bank account. The more you have the better off you are when you need to make a small withdrawal. Or another analogy, it’s like oil that lubricates the machinery of the team.

      I’m reading a book right now entitled, The Speed of Trust, written baby Stephen M. R. Covey that really hammers home this lesson. It is an excellent book. I highly recommend it :-).

      Good luck :-).

      Liked by 1 person

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