Asking the Right Questions Critically Introduction In the book, “Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking (Ninth Edition), by M. Neil Brown and Stuart M. Keeley”, the authors examine the benefits of critical thinking as it relates to the process of asking the right kinds of questions. What are the right kinds of questions? These authors maintain that critical thinking is a method used to improve the way we think by asking the questions that would enable you to reach a personal decision that would eventually give credit to both sides of the discussion.
Critical thinking is in essence the analysis, synthesis and evaluation of one’s experience, as it relates to the worth of the discussion at hand. The authors define critical thinking: “as the awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions, the ability to ask and answer critical questions at appropriate times; and the desire to actively use the critical questions. ” (p. 2) In my examination of the Memo by Denise Khali of Triad Insurance Company of Indianapolis, I will apply the 10 steps method developed by Brown and Keeley, to examine the arguments made.
What are the Issue and the Conclusion? In the memo sent by Ms. Denise Khali, Vice President of Human Resources, to the CEO, Mr. Robert Shaw, the main issue is whether or not their company Triad Insurance Company of Indianapolis (TICI), should support an initiative to have their junior insurance executives attend a leadership development program (D. Khali, personal communication, October 4, 2010). The proposal that was endorsed by one of their senior staff members, a Mr. Ralph Clarke, would send 20 employees to a program 3 ffered by the Aspen Leadership Institute of Colorado at a total cost of $100,000, not including the additional $100,000 for lost man hours. In regards to the conclusion, Ms. Khali believes that TICI should not invest in the proposal to send the junior executives to the annual leadership training. She argues that a leadership development program would be a waste of money. That the money could be better spent if the company would say for example, focus on recruitment. For her, recruitment of individuals with leadership qualities takes precedence over sending the wrong individuals to training.
What are the Reasons? Ms. Khali’s believes that the learning development proposal should not be supported because for a company that has been in business for over 50 years and has continued to an annual growth rate of nearly 12%, it’s not logical. Every year the company continued to see a steady flow of revenue and what is important here to note is that, not one of their twelve senior executives have ever attended a leadership training program. So would it not in fact be a waste of money to fund the initiative?
In addition to this information, she also argues that through the years the leadership at TICI has remained successful and effective, supporting her claim that a leader must in fact be born and not made. According to the world renowned economist Dr. Charles Parker, we are born into this world with the intrinsic qualities of leadership that is gifted at birth. From this we are led to believe that at birth, according to her, we are natural born leaders, with the likes of Winston Churchill, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther4 King Jr. , who all entailed that leadership quality of ambition, self confidence and intelligence.
These leaders had that key ability to influence, motivate and enable others, to be the best that they could be. In two well-respected published research articles, the Journal of Applied Psychology and Leadership Quarterly, it is documented that leadership qualities are based off of one’s personality traits. So to be a leader, your personality traits must lead you in that direction. Ms. Khali, argues that the company does not need to train leaders, because it is more logical for the company to recruit individuals with the skill to lead.
That if in fact the company were to spend money on the wrong individuals, the entire program would be a tremendous loss to the company. For her, if the company approves one training program, they would open a window that would allow everyone to request training, bringing that 12% annual growth rate closer to zero. What Words or Phrases are Ambiguous? When examining someone’s argument you must be critical in understanding the pro’s and con’s of their argument. In regards to ambiguous words or phrases, the word that stands out as being ambiguous is the term “leadership,” of which in all honesty cannot be defined with one definitive definition.
In her memo, Ms. Khali, defines leadership traits as having ambition, self-confidence and intelligence, as well the ability to influence, motivate and enable others. All of these traits she defends as being traits that are innate. Well there are many who would defend the idea that leadership qualities can in fact be learned. According to Candis Best (2010), leadership is not only 5 a theory to be understood, but an appreciation of the personality traits and behavioral characteristics of the leader. These traits and characteristics can be learned and developed through the process of coaching and mentoring (p. 22).
What are the Value and Descriptive Assumptions? Much of Ms. Khali’s values center around the idea that a successful leader is one who demands control, has a tall physique and has the intrinsic quality of leadership. While this does accentuate the idea that to be a leader, you must be tall and have the innate ability to lead, it does not support the notion that we work in a society based on the principle of equal opportunity. To further support her values, she criticizes Mr. Clarke for being motivated by his liberal intent to support the idea that all individuals have an equal chance of success in the pursuit of advancement and education.
While her argument does point out that equal opportunity exists for leaders who are of a tall stature and who possess those special intrinsic quality of leadership, it dismantles the system of belief that many hold dear, the right of everyone individual to seek opportunity and personal development. Based off her assumptions, we can conclude that she favors the idea of selecting leaders who are tall and has the innate ability to lead, not a leader who has to rely on equal opportunity or a remedial learning system. Are there any false fallacies in the reasoning?
According to her argument, one of her biggest critics, Mr. Clarke is an advocate for the leadership training program that of course Ms. Khali is so vehemently opposed to. This situation is a prime example of an Ad Hominem Fallacy (Browne & Keeley, 2010, p. 72), 6 because she criticizes Mr. Clarke’s for his beliefs and possible endeavor to obtain her position, while ignoring the issue at hand. Why does he support the learning development initiative? She also makes a Hasty Generalization Fallacy (Browne & Keeley, 2010, p. 94), about Mr.
Clarke, in that she presents the fact that he is short as a basis for her argument, because based off her experience, a leader is an individual or group of individuals who are tall. She is basing her conclusions of Mr. Clarke against the other senior staff that are in fact tall. In addition, she makes a claim that many of the renowned leaders in American history, past and present, were tall as well. She goes on to further explain, that once the company crosses that line and sends these individuals to leadership training, everyone else within the company will begin to request to attend some form of training as well.
This is an example of a Slippery Slope Fallacy (Browne & Keeley, 2010, p. 74), where she makes the assumption, that because the company approves an annual training, they will then have to approve all future trainings. She also examines the idea that the company could possibly send the wrong people to the training, and if that were to happen, she believes that the entire program would be a waste. Here she is making an Either-Or (Or False Dilemma) Fallacy (Browne & Keeley, 2010, p. 78), assessment of the situation.
She is assuming that if one individual does not benefit from the training, the entire program would have been a waste of time and money. How good is the evidence? 7 In addition to her many arguments, Ms. Khali attempts to appeal to authorities (Browne & Keeley, 2010, P. 97), by referencing two well-respected research studies that she argues support her claim that an individual’s leadership qualities, are the byproduct of their personality traits. However, she does not provide any information to support her claim.
She does not explain the depth of the research, when or where it was conducted or any information regarding the sample population. In regards to a case example (Bowne & Keeley, 2010, p. 113), Ms. Khali supports her claim by advocating the fact that there is no evidence that supports the notion that this leadership training would actually be beneficial to the company. From her perspective the company has been led by effective leaders who have enabled the company to consistently prosper. Unfortunately here the argument leaves much room for one’s imagination.
The fact remains that although these senior team members may not have attended any form of learning development training, there are plenty of other seminars and trainings that they could have attended in the past, that helped these leaders hone in on their leadership skill through learning and development. The economist, Mr. Carleton Parker, lays testimony (Browne & Keeley, 2010, p. 95), to the idea that leaders are born into this world with leadership traits. Ms. Khali supports this rational in claiming that there are already plenty of leaders in the world, and quite frankly there is no good reason for TICI to train someone to be a leader.
Again her argument falls short of the intended meaning, because in all honesty why should anyone believe that an economist has the expertise necessary to make such an assessment, or the idea that there are an ample amount of born leaders just 8 gallivanting around waiting to be hired. To support her claim, she could have provided more evidence supporting her argument that training leaders would be less beneficial to the company than recruitment, detailing how recruitment is more critical to the effectiveness of the company. Are there rival causes?
Ms. Khali claims that if the company were to fund the training program, there would no money for recruitment. If this statement holds true, there could be many different reasons why the company cannot afford to recruit. Maybe the company is not as profitable as she has led us to believe, maybe the company expenses far exceed their revenue, or maybe we have another case of corporate fraud on our hands. Are the statistics deceptive? With an annual growth rate of TICI at approximately 12%, it is most likely that these statistics are in fact deceptive.
Why was the company so prosperous for the last several years? Although leadership is definitely a contributing factor to the success of the company, it is not the only factor. The company could have been prosperous for many different reasons, for example, the economy could have been thriving, a dramatic increase in family sizes, more competitive rates due to less claims, etc. The simple fact here is that the statistical analysis was deficient in that it only took into consideration one independent factor. What significant information is omitted? 9
A couple of significant pieces of information are omitted from Ms. Khali predominantly one sided argument. For her the most important fact is the company has remained stable and successful through the last several years, with no contributing factors like leadership training. However, she fails to mention how the company will tackle tomorrow’s challenges and evolve into the future. Throughout her memo she basis her argument on the premise that leadership programs are a waste of money, but she fails to explain the benefit that training programs could have on the company.
What reasonable conclusions are possible? Based off the fact that the company has been prosperous over the last 50 years, a reasonable conclusion would be that despite the many challenges and lack of leadership training, the senior management team have led the company to steady growth. So, with the last 50 years of prosperity under their belts, the company should definitely be able to budget a program that would offer a leadership training program, as well as support an initiative to recruit. Although Ms.
Khali supports an initiative to boost recruitment, her argument that the company cannot fund both programs seems a little ridiculous. The truth is that despite the amount of employees a company has, without the support of a well rounded leadership team there would be little to no growth. Therefore, in an effort for the company to grow and evolve over the next 50 years, they must invest in their leaders of tomorrow, as well as build their company that will continue to grow through competition. 10 Works Cited: Bect, C. K. 2010). Assessing Leadership Readiness Using Developmental Personality Style: A tool for Leadership coaching. International Journal of Evidence based Coaching & Mentoring, 8(1), 22-33. Retrieved from http://www. business. brookes. ac. uk/research/areas /coachingandmentoring/ documents/vol08issue1-paper-01. pdf? err404=research/areas/ coachingandmentoring/volume/811_Kearney. pdf Brown M. N. , & Keeley, S. M (2010). Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking (9th ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.