Leadership: When Your Reasoning Is On Trial, aka a “Judge Judy” Moment

Have you ever watched the U.S. television show called Judge Judy where domestic court cases are tried on television?

The judge, Judy Sheindlin, is smart, funny, and so tough that she can strip away someone’s stupidity or poor logic in one deft sentence or make it acutely obvious with one raised eyebrow. (Side note: in 2007 Forbes ranked her as one of the 20 richest women and her net worth at over $95 million. In 2010, she was 72 in Forbes’ ranking of the most powerful people in the entertainment business.)

What makes a “Judge Judy” moment?

You as the smart, capable, and seasoned leader have your faulty reasoning or actions laid bare in a moment’s insight. Sadly (at least for your ego), that insight will not be precipitated from your own brilliance but from another’s perspective. It may be tough and so on target that your head snaps to look at the intruder. What differentiates it from salacious criticism is that it will be neither capricious nor unfair.

So, what do you do?

You could (as I observed one failing leader do) argue away the truth, speciously substantiating your position or actions. However, this behavior signals a type of leader or manager who cannot grow, is not coachable, and is a drain on the company.

Another possibility? You alter course but your sarcastic remarks signal displeasure at having being found wrong. In this case, you’re signaling subordinates and peers to withhold perspectives that might challenge your thinking or actions. How useless is that for growing your company, division, or own leadership capacity?


You swiftly consider the new insight, and discover where your thinking went off-track. Maybe you laugh with the person—even if you don’t like him—you can darn well like the value of what you’ve been given. In this stance, you are an “open system”: one that receives new input, grows, and evolves from it.

Next time you have your “Judge Judy” moment, respond as her more educable plaintiffs and defendants do. Say “Yes, Ma’am,” fully receive the pearl of truth, and move forward.

U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240

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