Characteristics of Leaders that are Critical Thinkers

Characteristics of Leaders that are Critical Thinkers

There are many benefits to critical thinking, but what are some characteristics of leaders that are critical thinkers? Do they have innate abilities that make them better at thinking critically? In this article we will examine eight characteristics of critical thinkers.

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Active Listeners

We have all heard it before the best communicators are active listeners. What does it mean to practice active listening? Active listening means the listener is completely engaged in what the speaker is communicating and judging what is being said. The listener is not formulating his rebuttal or responses to the speaker, or even worse thinking about something else unrelated.

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Curiosity is yet another skill in developing critical thinking. Some scholars believe that Socrates ultimate goal was not so much to advocate his methods, but to advocate self-improvement and to spark curiosity. The main goal of a teacher is to spark curiosity and engage their students. There are many methods to engage curiosity but they all essentially involve raising a question. For instance, Einstein prompted his curiosity by asking questions about how matter and energy functioned.


Reasoning and rationale are often associated with self-discipline. Critical thinking is a self-disciplined and self-guided action. Critical thinking requires the individual to use their own reasoning skills and have the ability to evaluate and reflect. One important thing to consider is that people who are critical thinkers commonly are also more empathetic and aware of their world. They show a commitment to self-development and strive to make their environment a better place.


Humility is defined as the “quality of being modest of opinion or estimate of one’s own importance.” Humility is the opposite of arrogance. Humility relates having an open mind. To be receptive to new information or opinions, the critical thinker would have to be modest of their own opinion. Being humble allows you to accept and see information in a way that is not filtered through your ego.

Ability to See the Big Picture

One of the main functions of thinking is to make connections. Our own ideas gain significance when we can relate or connect them to other ideas. We start to gain insight when we see the similarities between ideas. The way we structure our ideas can be based on how they connect in one of two ways: causal or conceptual relationships. Since many problems arise due to causal changes, we will focus on this aspect.


Objectivity is defined as “intentness on objects external to the mind.” In critical thinking, we want have a keen sense of objectivity. This is a heuristic or rule/strategy for problem solving. Objectivity helps us to engage more thoughtfully and deliberately in the critical thinking process. However, we should not completely exclude our emotion or subjective feelings in the decision making or problem solving process. The most important thing to remember is that evaluating information objectively helps us to be more deliberate or thorough.

Using Emotions

As mentioned in the previous section, emotions should not be ignored altogether when thinking critically. Emotions play a crucial role in the thinking process. For instance, professionals need empathy when working with others regardless of their occupation in order to vicariously experience what others feel, believe, or wish. The issue with emotions and decision making is to not allow emotions to cloud your judgment.


Self-awareness is yet another characteristic of the critical thinker. This characteristic relates to acutely being aware of one’s feelings, opinions, and assumptions. Moreover, it is a starting point for thinking critically. Our assumptions are how the first impressions and strongest emotions are filtered when we evaluate information.



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