Good Leaders make Good Decisions

In the last 90 days 753 books were published on Amazon that focus on “leadership”. There is an entire professional development series on LinkedIn dedicated to “leadership”: thanks to their recent purchase of Lynda. You can improve your leadership skill by simply watching a few hours of videos.

So, I am calling the “yinzers of action” meeting to order, cause seriously we need to talk! Let’s cut to the chase it is impossible to be a leader without followers. Good leaders need to motivate, engage and empower followers. But, most don’t know how. In “Why should anyone be led by you” by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones, define four qualities inspirational leaders share:

  • They selectively show their weaknesses.
  • They rely heavily on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and courses of their actions.
  • They manage employees with something we call tough empathy.
  • They reveal their differences.

The focus of this piece is the second quality. “rely heavily on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and courses of their action.” Good leaders make “good” decisions. To drive the change, you wish to make you need to be committed that this change is worthwhile. To bring that change to fruition you’ll have to be able to allocate funds, times and energy required to persuade others to make the change.

By studying good leaders, one realizes that decision making is a skill. Good leaders understand that decision making is their job, and then make decisions professionally. They understand that a decision is a management event, a choice. Decision making is a process and good leaders have identified rules for making decisions.

The two elements which drive decision making are rational inputs and the irrational input. You are thinking who thinks irrational when making decisions. Allow me to give an example of the beauty of human irrationality – a person who has tickets to the Steeler playoff game this Sunday not scalping them for more money. While in Pittsburgh this may be viewed as rational decision if we applied economic rational inputs it is clearly irrational.

The arrival of a “change agent” at the door marks the need for a decision. Change agents are typically disguised as new job offer, a change in the market, or the development of a new competitor in your market. Fight the typical reaction of responding with an emotional decision which will most likely lead to a sub-optimal change when you are eye to eye with the change agent. Remember there are always two options, walk away (deciding to take no action is a decision) or act upon the change agent.

If you chose to act take these steps:

  • Write down the outcome this decision is supposed to produce.
    • Why put time and effort into this choice?
  • Aggressively list every possible choice that is available?
    • Force yourself to un-frame the problem
    • Here is a great example, Arco stressing price to end credit card use
      • Arco started by considering ways to increase use of its’ credit card and ended up killing their card.
    • For each option available, list the dependencies, the things the outcome is contingent on.
      • What events need to happen for the option to be “good’.
      • Identify any “sunk costs

The goal embracing decision making as a process and working to be great at that process. This allows leaders to de-emotionalize decisions and focus on the real pros and cons of the choices. This is important for leaders as their decisions are for the greater good not simply themselves. Smart decisions are not the results of “magical thinking”, they are the results of a leader embracing their ability to DECIDE.

Post Courtesy of: Dr. Stephen Whitehead, Associate Provost of Innovation,
California University of Pennsylvania


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