A leader/manager’s intellect draws on the mental resources that are applied to one’s duties and responsibilities. Conceptual abilities enable effective problem solving and sound judgment before implementing concepts and plans. They help to reason analytically, critically, ethically, and with cultural sensitivity to consider unintended as well as intended consequences. The conceptual abilities
include mental agility, sound judgment, innovation, and expertise and experience.
A. Mental Agility
Mental agility is a flexibility of mind, an ability to anticipate or adapt to uncertain or changing situations. Agility enables thinking through second- and third-order effects when current decisions or actions are not producing the desired results. It allows leaders to break habitual patterns. It means thinking through outcomes when current actions are not producing desired effects, and applying multiple perspectives and approaches. Mental agility examines a problem in depth from multiple points of view. A leader’s mental agility to quickly isolate a problem and identify solutions generates initiative to adapt during operations.
B. Sound Judgment
Sound judgment requires the capacity to assess situations shrewdly to make reliable estimates and to draw rational conclusions. Often, leader/managers must juggle facts, questionable data, and intuitive feelings to arrive at a quality decision. Good judgment informs the best decision for the situation. It is a key attribute of transforming knowledge into understanding and quality
Sound judgment contributes to an ability to determine possible courses of action and decide the best action to take. Before choosing, leader/managers must consider the consequences. Some sources that aid judgment are the boss’ intent, codes, regulations, the organizations goals, experience, and values. Like mental agility, it is a critical part of problem solving and decision-making.
Innovation describes the ability to introduce something new when needed or as opportunities exist. Inquisitive leader/managers are eager to understand a broad range of topics and keep an open mind to multiple possibilities. They seek creativity in producing ideas and objects that are both novel and appropriate. Being innovative includes creativity in producing original and worthwhile ideas. Leader/managers should seize such opportunities to think creatively and to innovate. A key concept for creative thinking is developing new ideas and approaches to accomplish goals. Creative thinking uses adaptive approaches (drawing from previous circumstances) or innovative approaches (developing completely new ideas).
Leader/managers think creatively to adapt to new environments. Innovative leader/managers prevent complacency by finding new ways to challenge associates with forward-looking approaches and ideas. To be innovators, leader/managers also rely on intuition, knowledge, and input from associates. Innovative leader/managers reinforce team building by making everybody responsible for and stakeholders in, the innovation process.
Developing an innovative solution does not mean creating something new or inventing something, although, it could. The idea need not be original or new, merely original to the situation. Leader/managers need to monitor trends in their industry so that they see innovative ideas. They should visit other organizations to see what new ideas they have discovered. Leaders should always
be reading, listening, and learning. Trade shows are a good place to see new ideas. Some of the best ideas can come from associates.
I am one of those lucky people who have a creative mind. I have 100 new ideas every day. Five of those ideas will be good and 95 will be bad. My problem is identifying the good from the bad. That is where associates, peers, and mentors are helpful.