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Leadership Development and Critical Thinking

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Roffey Park is an international executive education institute that provides high impact leadership development, management development, OD and HR, through open and customised development programmes, training programmes, qualifications and research.  We’re expanding our international operations by creating a base in Ireland to serve our clients across Europe.  Here we interview our Head of Faculty, Dr Arlene Egan, about how critical thinking remains a key component to effective leadership development.

Why did you join Roffey Park Institute? 

Belief is what drew me to Roffey Park Institute. Belief in the power of people, continuous learning and dialogue as mechanisms to drive growth and transformation. The ethos of Roffey Park is genuinely focused on creating sustainable change for both individuals and organisations through a clear understanding of how people learn and the belief in the capacity of human potential.

Roffey Park also places importance on research to ensure a deep and relevant understanding of core concepts exist relating to leadership, management, OD and human dynamics. As a lifelong learner and educator, I easily align with this ethos and the thinking and approach used in Roffey Park and I see it as an environment where I can not only contribute but also continue to learn.

What are you most looking forward to doing?

There are many aspects to working in Roffey Park that I am excited about including facilitation, designing new offerings, forging new partnerships and collaborating with the amazing team in Roffey Park. I am naturally very curious and being in an environment that promotes inquiry, dialogue and questioning is something I am exited to be part of.

You’ve just published a book called Confidence in Critical Thinking, how does critical thinking connect to leadership development?

Leaders need to develop and trust their ability to think critically so that they have confidence in their decision-making and problem-solving skills. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many important links between critical thinking and leadership development including;

  1. Understanding what to look for and how to establish an environment that promotes effective collaboration,
  2. Building strategies to promote resilience,
  3. Using creativity and imagination to solve problems and drive innovation,
  4. Developing flexible strategies to cope with change
  5. Paying close, regular attention to how well you are doing as a leader and what you need to do next.

Leaders need to develop the skills to promote critical thinking throughout their organisations so that all can seek out opportunities to practice and enhance their skills.

In the future workplace with automation and AI – do humans need to be critical thinkers? 

Critical thinking has different functions when it comes to the role of AI and the future of work. There is a view that the robots are coming to take our jobs, and while I understand the premise of this view, it may be more useful to think about the role of AI as enabling us to do our jobs better or to consider that our current work practices will be disrupted leading us to different ways of working.

Critical thinking is a skill that helps people to understand change and cope in situations of ambiguity. By being able to think differently depending on the task at hand (which is a basic definition of critical thinking) it may be that we can settle more effectively into our new ways of working. I also think it is worth considering that we are the ones creating the AI and automation technology, so critical thinking will continue to be necessary to evolve the technological solutions that are being developed. As such, critical thinking skills such as problem-solving, creativity, evaluation and decision-making will remain core in leadership development.

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